Just over a month ago, I posted on the subject of Chemistry lectures, and discussed how they have changed during the time I have been giving them. Having recently finished a block of lectures to our second year students, I have been doing some soul-searching about whether this is still a teaching medium that is appreciated by students, and whether it is one that works for them.
I really tried to ‘pull out the stops’ for these lectures, giving my usual PowerPoint notes, but also plenty of examples on the board, and this year, my ‘innovation’ was recording the lectures which I provided for the students to download after the lectures had taken place.
And yet, the attitude of many of the students in the class seemed to be (at best) to show only a small amount of interest in what I was trying to explain. I frequently had to quieten them down (even though they knew I was recording the lectures), and when I asked a question about some aspect of the lecture material, it was usually met by silence and puzzlement. OK, so the topics were difficult, but surely that is all the more reason to concentrate and try to get the most out of the lecture!
The fact that some students seem to regard lectures as an opportunity to chat to their friends, and to pay scant attention to the lecturer, leads me to question how useful they think the lectures are to them. And yet, for explaining complex subjects to a class, they still remain the best approach that I can think of.
My remaining lectures this academic year are mainly for more ‘mature’ students – potential trainee teachers, so I don’t expect the ‘talking’ problem with them, and in the past these classes have taken my lectures seriously. But I feel that I need to come up with a strategy for next year, and would be interested in people’s views on the usefulness of lectures, and if anyone else has experienced the ‘change in attitude’ that some students seem to display now. (I should say that I have been teaching university chemistry courses for nearly 23 years, and that the’ issues’ that I am talking about here have only become issues in the last 2 years at most!)