The lecture method is not considered one of the most effective methods of teaching as the students are often mere passive listeners.
Last week we discussed how a good teacher should handle the classroom situation. Let us now focus our attention on the various styles of teaching in a classroom.
Teaching in higher classes mostly follows the lecture method, with the convenience it offers. In the first place, a large number of students can be handled simultaneously. The teacher is in full control of the lesson. He is the sole source of information. It is a good method for introducing a new topic.
A lecture can be used to cover a large syllabus area in a limited time. It can not only enlighten an assembly, but motivate it and even inspire it. It is fine for pep talk. In science and technology, the information given in textbooks may be outdated. Even the latest update can be presented to the classroom through a lecture. Above all, many teachers enjoy their lectures because of their potential for aesthetic pleasure.
In spite of these merits, we should remember that the lecture method is not considered as one of the most effective methods of teaching. The pupils have little involvement; they are often mere passive listeners or silent witnesses. Those with poor listening skills do not benefit much. If they do not take notes, they will forget most of what they have heard. Some lectures may be boring; this may lead to the pupils losing interest in the subject or even hating it. If reverse questions are not encouraged, pupils who have not followed a part may not grasp what comes later. This results in a teaching disaster.
As a solution to some of the problems indicated above, teachers should ensure pupils’ participation in classroom lectures. They should maintain good eye contact with the pupils, carefully watch their reactions, and confirm that they remain interested in the lesson. The teacher should pose questions and get answers that help in the development of the lesson. Further, questions from students, seeking clarifications or further explanation, should be encouraged in order to ensure their active participation. There should be appropriate gestures and cadences in the voice to avoid monotony in the lecture. The teacher has to be enthusiastic right through the lecture. Important points should be emphasised through pauses or repetition or appropriate gestures.
Go from known to unknown. You learn something in the form of an addition or extension to your existing knowledge. Go from simple to complex, and from concrete to abstract. Often you may have to go from particular to general. In some other contexts, you may have to go from general to particular. (Let us illustrate this need. Take the case of an electrician repairing a fluorescent lamp in a shop where he joined recently. He knows the operation and maintenance of fluorescent lamps in general. He is applying the generalised knowledge to the particular situation. But how did he first learn the features of the fluorescent lamps? He must have had his lessons from a particular fluorescent lamp. He then generalised the particular information, and now used it for the repair in the new situation. He thereby went from the general to particular.) Also, an overall view of a topic should be presented before going into details. The pupils should not miss the wood for the trees. First show the wood and then point at the trees.
Restate and periodically summarise key points. Never speak continuously from the beginning to the end of a period. There has to be breaks for questions and interaction. The lecture has to be structured to suit this style. Finish the lecture forcefully. Do not allow it to taper off quietly and trail away.
The chalkboard should be used in tandem to note down the vital points. Other teaching aids may also be used, if appropriate. A natural conversational style would usually be more effective than styles of spellbinding oratory.
The teacher draws out what the pupils know, rather than telling them everything in the lesson. The pupils should be informed beforehand the topics to be discussed and the lesson objective, thereby enabling them to make adequate preparation to make the discussion lively and effective. The teacher may indicate the right sources for preparation. In other words, the guided discussion has to be planned well.
During the discussion, the teacher has to be vigilant so that no misleading idea is presented by a pupil, because of his ignorance. Perhaps he might have misunderstood what he read from a textbook or other source.
The teacher should treat everyone in the group impartially. He should give appropriate guiding comments and encourage questions from the participants. After all, learning comes mostly from questions and answers in a guided discussion. The teacher can initiate the session by posing an open question.
If a pupil makes a mistake, the teacher should correct him. There should be no sarcasm in the teacher’s words, since it would dissuade pupils from active participation. The teacher can ask a student to explain a point in greater detail. He has to ensure that the discussion is in the right track, and bring it back if it goes astray. However, the teacher’s intervention should be the minimum required. The discussion should not be allowed to ramble for long.
The teacher needs to answer a question only if no student in the group can do it. He should keep a note that contains all the points that should emerge from the discussion, and supplement it appropriately. For each sub-topic, the teacher may pose a leading question. The lesson objective should be clear, and should be achieved by the end of the discussion. There has to be a conclusion that highlights all the essential points. The pupils should prepare notes based on the discussion.