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Topic: [math-learn] Fortieth Anniversary of Donald Bligh's 'What's the use of

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Richard Hake

Posts: 1,251
From: Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Registered: 12/4/04
[math-learn] Fortieth Anniversary of Donald Bligh's 'What's the use of

Posted: Oct 30, 2011 12:26 PM
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Some subscribers to Math-Learn might be interested in "Fortieth
Anniversary of Donald Bligh's 'What's the use of Lectures?' " [Hake
(2011)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: Philosopher George MacDonald Ross <>
posted a link <> to his essay "What's the Use of
Lectures? - Forty Years On." Ross' wrote [bracketed by lines "RRRRR.
. . . . ":

It is 40 years since the first publication of Donald Bligh's classic
work "What's the Use of Lectures?" (London, Bligh, 1971). It was a
devastating critique, based on thorough empirical research, of the
use of the lecture as the main method of teaching in higher
education. It had been established that the only educational function
lectures were capable of achieving was the transmission of factual
information, and even then they were no better than other methods,
and lecturers wildly overestimated the amount of information students
were capable of remembering. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Among educationalists, it is established orthodoxy that lecturing is
the least effective way of transmitting knowledge, understanding, and
intellectual techniques from teachers to students; and it is a
striking measure of the marginalisation of educational researchers
and developers that, on this issue at least, they have had virtually
no influence on institutional structures or academic practice. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The idea of a university which replaces listening to the reading of a
text in a lecture by the reading of the text in printed form is known
as a 'post-Gutenberg University' - an idea first mooted by Frank
Lambert in the 1950s: <>. It is long overdue, and
one of the tragedies of current university education is that we have
abandoned the disputation, which really did force students to think
independently and imaginatively, and retained the lecture, which has
been redundant for half a millennium."

STLHE-L's Martin Rosenzweig (2011) responded (slightly edited):

"I would suggest that lecturing persists because:
a. it is 'cost-effective' - one lecturer serving many (paying) auditors,
b. it is how most lecturers were 'taught', a case of 'monkey see, monkey do',
c. teaching at the vast majority of major universities is unrewarded
or under-rewarded activity.
In the USA, the persistence of lectures has led to higher education's
being 'Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses'
(Arum & Roksa, 2011)."

To access the complete 17 kB post please click on <>

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands
President, PEdants for Definitive Academic References which Recognize the
Invention of the Internet (PEDARRII)

"Physics educators have led the way in developing and using
objective tests to compare student learning gains in different types
of courses, and chemists, biologists, and others are now developing
similar instruments. These tests provide convincing evidence that
students assimilate new knowledge more effectively in courses
including active, inquiry-based, and collaborative learning, assisted
by information technology, than in traditional courses."
Wood & Gentile (2003) "Teaching in a research context"

REFERENCES [All URL's shortened by <> and accessed on
29 Oct 2011.]

Hake, R.R. 2011. "Fortieth Anniversary of Donald Bligh's 'What's the
use of Lectures?' " online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at
<>. Post of 29 Oct 2011 20:27:25 -0700 to AERA-L
and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being
transmitted to several discussion lists and are also on my blog
"Hake'sEdStuff" at <>.

Wood, W.B., & J.M. Gentile. 2003. "Teaching in a research context,"
Science 302: 1510; 28 November; online as a 209 kB pdf at

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