Lectures Are A Wimpy Model For Learning

I have reached my limit with well-educated-yet-stupidly-ignorant, egotistical, self-centered experts who believe lectures are the best way to learn.

Lectures and listening are wimpy models for learning.

The Myth Of Learning From Lectures

Too many people believe the myth that listening to a lecture is the fastest way to learn. And too may well-intentioned speakers believe that talking to an audience is the best way to present.

It’s just wrong! It’s inaccurate. And it’s time to come out of the monologue-closet and into evidence-based, proven learning models.

Are lectures the fastest way to help an audience grasp the context and content? Are lectures the best way to help hearers make the information their own? Are lectures an effective learning model to help listeners apply the information to their jobs? Once an audience has heard a presenter’s lecture, can they reproduce what the speaker just spewed?

No, no, no and no!

Lectures are the fastest way to cover material. But content covered does not mean content is learned. Dr. Donald Bligh’s research shows that the typical lecture is equivalent to distributing a report. That’s right! It has the same value for learning as giving out a report. It doesn’t mean the report is learned. It doesn’t mean the report is memorized. It doesn’t mean the report is applied. It is just another report.

The next time you hire an expensive keynote presenter, imagine printed pages coming out of their mouths and into the hands of the listeners. After the presentation is over, the listener has a stack of papers as a report. Once back in the office, the report is filed. There is no guarantee that it will be read, discussed and applied. Nor did they remember it all.

Create An Experience With The Content

“A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument,” said C.S. Lewis. Here’s another way to think about it. A listener who has an experience with the content is much more likely to succeed with transferring that content back on the job.

It’s time to give the audience an experience with the content. That experience must include more than just listening. It must include thinking, discussing and evaluating. Don’t just give them the argument or theory. Give the learners the experience they need!

For the love of learning, presenter, take a couple of breaks in your diatribe and focus on the listener as the learner. Let them talk about your information in pairs or triads.

If you are the presenter and you can do something, so what! That has little affect on your audience except grandstanding. While your ability to do something correctly is admirable, it doesn’t help your audience. Telling us what and how to do it doesn’t really help. We need more than that.

If your listeners can talk about how they might apply your process, there is more likelihood that they will learn it. As a presenter, it’s more important that your audience can correctly apply the technique or theory.

When your audience can teach someone else what you’ve taught them, then you know for sure that learning, retention and application has occurred.

That’s why I am so passionate about letting the audience do most of the talking, especially around the chunks of content I may give them as a presenter. That’s when the real learning occurs!

Ok, I feel better now. I’m off my soapbox…for now.

Why do we believe that listening to information equals learning? What are some things you’ve seen good presenters do that help the audience learn the information?

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  1. […] Hurt also thinks lectures are fairly useless. Calling them a “wimpy model for learning“, Hurt likens a typical event lecture as effective as handing out a report to everyone in the […]

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