The lecture: Have reports of its death been greatly exaggerated?

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

Lectures are a cornerstone of university education and have been so for centuries. Changing populations of students and online, flexible provision of learning have led some to claim that the lecture is obsolete. Decreasing attendance provides support for this view, but many students still choose to attend lectures. This study investigates their reasons for doing so. First year students (n=768) from five different faculties of a traditional New Zealand university completed a survey about their reasons for attending lectures and why they did not attend. The results showed that most students (88%) value lectures as a means to help them learn, allowing them to make their own notes (75%) and find out about assessments (80%). A small percentage found lectures boring (20%) or a waste of time (7%). Comparisons between faculties showed that lectures are seen as being more valuable for some subjects than for others. Comparisons between those who attended all lectures and those who missed some confirmed that students’ attitudes towards lectures also affected their attendance. These findings have implications for the design of courses. Careful integration of lectures and other teaching methods across the curriculum will help students to exercise greater choice about their study.

Keywords: Lecture attendance; large classes; student engagement