The traditional lecture, the primary education method of your conference, fails at promoting learning!
Yes, it’s true. The conference lecture is only good for transmitting information. (Bligh 1970, 2000).
It is not good for changing attitudes, behaviors or skills. (Bligh 1970, 2000)
The Lecture Is Good For Teachers Bad For Learners
As long as your conference promotes lectures as the primary method of providing education, it will fail at changing behaviors and skills.
According to Professor and education researcher Donald Bligh*:
- The lecture is ineffective for teaching values.
- It is ineffective for inspiring interest in a topic.
- It is ineffective for personal and social adjustment.
- It is ineffective for teaching behavioral skills.
Yet, it is the primary teaching method used in most conferences and meetings.
The lecture is good for teaching information. Yes, it is good for “teaching information.” Yet, that does not mean it is good for how adults learn. It does not mean that it is good for the audience that hears it. It means it is a good way for the speaker to organize and share information. That’s it, sharing of information.
Bligh’s research into the use of lectures shows that a lecture is justifiable if the goal is just to transmit information. However, it is not justifiable if the goal is attitude, behavior and skill change. It does not justify our frequent heavy reliance on the lecture method for most of our conferences.
Knowledge Is Not Enough
Information and knowledge is not enough if learning or change is the goal. Corman (1957) found that information on how to approach problems could only be solved by the most intelligent group of learners. Similarly, Corman found that knowledge of principles used in solving problems made no difference to actually solving the problems.
Providing information and knowledge is not enough to provide a premium conference product. Learners need practice in solving problems and applying principles in order to change their attitudes, behaviors and skills.
In order for our conference education sessions to be more effective, we have to move from just sharing information to allowing attendees to discuss, practice and consider ways to apply the information and knowledge.
Discussions Trump Lectures
Conference education that fosters attendee discussions are consistently more effective than lectures for learning and thinking. Attendee peer discussions are more effective than lectures for memory and knowledge retention, thinking and learning. (Bligh, 2000; Hingorani, 1996; Khoiny, 1996; Mohr, 1996; Cabral-Pini, 1995; Smith, 1995; Tillman, 1993 are just a few of the researchers with reports that illustrate these results.)
During discussions, learners are more attentive, active and thoughtful than during lectures. This has been known and proven for a long time and too many teachers, speakers and conference organizers seem to ignore it.
If your conference attendees are to learn the information, they must be placed in situations where they have to do so. Those situations where they are obliged to think are those in which they have to answer questions, because questions demand an active mental response. The traditional lecture does not demand this.
Practice Is Better Than Listening To Lectures
The best ways for conference attendees to find solutions to their immediate challenges is to be given sample problems that have to be solved collaboratively with peers. The best way for them to use their critical skills is to practice using constructive criticism with their peers. The best way for them to develop analytical thinking skills is to keep analyzing situations and data.
This seems to be common sense. Right?
Unfortunately, some conference organizers, presenters and attendees, “…place faith in lectures to stimulate thought and expect thinking skills to be absorbed, like some mystical vapors, from an academic atmosphere.” Donald Bligh, What’s The Use Of Lectures.
Yet, we don’t learn through absorption!
*Donald Bligh has researched the use of lectures since the 1960s. His book, What’s The Use Of Lectures, has a summary of supporting evidence with a bibliography of 24 pages. Bligh states that there are so many reports with the same conclusion today that it is not possible to detail them all in his book.
What are some ways to combine lectures with audience discussions? How are peer discussions different from Q&A at the end of a lecture?