What’s a Class Session for?

Steve Dembo (via Will Richardson) observes that instructors who podcast their lectures are reporting a decrease in class attendance. This is essentially the same concern that arose when instructors began posting the powerpoint slides from their lecture notes, or even their lecture notes themselves. Both raise a more fundamental question: If students can learn the content easily from text or other media, isn’t spending scarce class time on that content a waste? My answer: yes!

What then should class time be used for? In my view it should be used as a laboratory experience to practice the content. What form this practice would take would vary depending on the discipline and the type of content. I blogged about this in an early posting on my teaching experiment.

Don’t skip the comments on Will’s posting, especially the one by Jeff Moore who notes,

I worry that colleges are not prepared to receive students who’ve been “trained” under more progressive, student-centered models. … [T]hese colleges seem content to blame secondary schools for producing sub-par students when professors discover that our graduates may not be willing to sit, all glassy-eyed, in lecture halls to bathe in professorial egotism and the propaganda of disciplinarity.

There’s a lot more in Jeff’s comment worth thinking about.

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1 Response to What’s a Class Session for?

  1. Gardner says:

    Excellent on all counts.

    Here’s another analogy. I have a lot of Steely Dan records. Why on earth would I go to see them play live when I could either a) listen to the records or b) listen to a live recording of the show. The Grateful Dead are an even better analogy. Fans recorded ALL their shows and traded them constantly. These were very high-quality recordings. Why did people go see them? Because of the sense of occasion. Because of the compelling environment. Because of a SENSE OF COMMUNITY (sorry to shout). Because they wanted to be part of a response that helped to shape the concert. Because the concerts were not predictable. Because there’s a different kind of presence.

    The concerts weren’t interactive. The band didn’t split folks up into groups (they did that themselves, sometimes :-)). But they did make for a compelling experience. What else is great pedagogy but the crafting of compelling experiences? And there are as many ways to craft those experiences as there are motes in a sunbeam.

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