Teaching material, lectures, and how they have changed over the years

As I’ve been mentioning on Twitter, I’ve been tidying my office, and in particular emptying a couple of filing cabinets which contain teaching material going back to 1988! Seeing how this has changed shows, to a certain extent, how teaching methods in universities (at least for Chemistry) have changed.

When I started my teaching, I would turn up in the lecture theatre and write my notes on the blackboard. So I had folders full of hand-written notes. I remember that I would typically get through 4 pages of notes in a 50 minute lecture. This doesn’t seem to bear much relationship to the 20-30 PowerPoint slides I get through in a typical lecture now, but more of that later. I then progressed to using overhead transparencies, but I never really embraced their use, apart from for diagrams etc. Finally I moved to PowerPoint, but it has to be said that it was only about 2 years ago that I finally converted all my courses to that medium. Some, like thermodynamics, clung on stubbornly to ‘chalk and talk’ (although actually pen and whiteboard), but now even that subject is taught by PowerPoint, with plenty of examples on the whiteboard.

I find it difficult to compare my lectures from those early days with what I do now. Then I had to write everything down on the board, and now I essentially show and explain slides. Which is best for the students, or is any comparison irrelevant because of changed times and expectations? As always, comments are welcome!


6 thoughts on “Teaching material, lectures, and how they have changed over the years”

  1. Why do you not add more variety Rob, for both yourself and students, by not doing it all by powerpoint. Use a mixture of techniques and media ? cheers, paul

      1. But you make a good point, & I’ll say a bit more about that tomorrow. The main thing was comparing methods of getting the main subject matter across, & whether the slower pace of chalk & talk was actually better than using modern technology!

      2. ……I recently did some undergraduate lecturing and teaching which gave me the chance to combine white board work to punctuate power-point……I love doing that, but would actually prefer to use proper chalk and blackboard…..love to mix the old and new technology !

  2. ‘brixhamboy2000’ makes some interesting points above. To clarify, I was mainly concerned with how you get the main subject matter of your lecture across. Then it was on a blackboard, and now it’s mainly via PowerPoint, although as I said in the post, with plenty of whiteboard examples. I also break things up with examples from the web, and videos. But there is no doubt that the pace of delivery of material is much faster now, and I wondered if students benefited more from the slower pace that was inevitable when using a blackboard?

    Of course there are other differences that I didn’t mention. Now the students have the notes in advance, so they can do preparation if they wish, and I record the lectures (currently audio but maybe video in the future) which helps revision.

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