‘Is It Ever OK to Lecture?’

Last fall, about a month into his first semester of teaching, a graduate-student instructor I mentor came to see me in my office. Before the semester began, he had participated in an intensive workshop on teaching for new teaching assistants in our department. I taught the workshop with a heavy emphasis on active learning, and introduced them to research on its effectiveness and on the ineffectiveness of traditional lectures. This TA was a devout convert to the church of active learning, but was clearly now having a crisis of faith.

"I know I’m supposed to make them work to learn things themselves," he told me, "but is it OK to tell them anything? What if I know stuff that they want to know?"

The status of the lecture in the college classroom clearly has been fraughtin recent years:

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