This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. This is your brain during a lecture. (See image.)
Our Addiction To Lectures
We are addicted to lectures.
They are easy to plan and schedule for a conference. Release a call for presentation proposals. Select speakers from submitted proposals. Ask speakers to give monologues or panel dialogues. Secure the right AV. Set the room theater style for maximum number of people. And ta-dah, it’s done.
They are easy to attend. Show up. Sit down. Stay quiet. Look forward. Act like you’re paying attention. Let your mind wander. And ta-dah, the osmosis occurs. Learning is magically transferred from the lecturer to the listener. Not!
They are easy to prepare. Put together a presentation. Create some bullets for PPT slides. And talk. Talk ad nauseam. Because content covered is content learned. Not!
Lectures Are A Lazy Format For Lazy Learners
Lectures are a lazy format for lazy learners. The premise is that anything we hear, we automatically learn, retain and can recall. That is incorrect. The ROI from information transfer from the presenter to the speaker is incredibly low. Without time to process the information, the learning that occurs is minimal.
The ROI Of Learning From Lectures
- In a 1991 Berkeley study, only 20% of students retained what the lecturer presented. Maryland Collaborative For Teacher Preparation.
- Eight minutes into the lecture, only 15% of the students were paying attention. Maryland Collaborative For Teacher Preparation.
- Compared to peer discussions, lecture is the poorest method to promote thinking and retention in 90% of experiments. Donald A. Bligh, What’s The Use Of Lectures, 2000
- Without variations in the usual lecture technique, lectures are not good for helping people develop new attitudes, behaviors or skills in 90% of experiments. Donald A. Bligh, What’s The Use Of Lectures, 2000
- People usually forget 90% of what they learn in a class within 30 days. Majority of loss occurs within hours of the class. German psychologist and memory researcher Hermann Ebbinghaus.
What is Learning?
Learning is an active process that takes place in working memory.
The learner processes words and visuals. During that process the learner gives attention to a few specific elements. Then abstracts meaning from them and connects them to past experiences. That is followed by the learner integrating the meaning with existing knowledge in long-term memory.
This process takes time. And it takes dedicated attention. It can’t occur while listening to a lecture.
Lectures Produce Cognitive Overload
Provide too much content in a lecture and the learner experiences Cognitive Overload. The working memory has a limited capacity of three to five things for a matter of seconds. Overload the working memory with too much information and it backfires. It can’t process the information. Learning stops.
Changes Needed In Traditional Conference Education
For lectures to increase learning ROI, they must reduce the amount of content covered, integrate active audience participation and give people time to process information. In short, the presenter must stop talking and allow attendees to talk to each other. Or allow attendees to engage in practice.
As an attendee, what can you do to increase your learning after hearing a lecture? What are some tips conference organizers can do to increase attendee learning and encourage less lectures?