Problems with the Lecture Format


ALTERNATIVES TO THE LECTURE FORMAT: How often do you use lectures as your sole training technique? Nearly always? Often? It's not unusual for trainers to use the lecture technique exclusively. After all, this is what we have all seen and are familiar with. The format is easily mastered, and innovation may not seem necessary when the traditionally accepted technique garners no complaints. Unfortunately, while there are several conditions under which a lecture may be useful to the trainer, for several reasons it is not a very effective tool for changing behavior in trainees.

PROBLEMS WITH THE LECTURE FORMAT: The format requires that trainees receive information passively, without reciprocal involvement. This tends to make trainees feel like children. In fact, this is the precise connotation that the word "lecture" calls up - an authority figure addressing children. The structure of the lesson is therefore instructor-centered rather than trainee-centered. The efficacy of the lecture also suffers from its long history-lectures are expected to be boring. Very few speakers have either training in public speech or theatre, and most lecturers, no matter how hard they try, move slowly toward either monotone or singsong patterns as they settle in. Hearing is a sense that seems to demand constant change - without it, any repetitive tone dissolves into background music. Even the addition of static visual aids helps very little-the human eye is capable of seeing, recognizing, processing, and ultimately tiring of simplistic visual stimulation with surprising speed.

Unless the trainer can make his material unusually interesting, something that few of us accomplish consistently, the constant stream of words will become monotonous to trainees. When there is no room for active participation, it is very difficult for trainees to maintain an adequate attention level. Finally, just as the term "lecture" suggests, there is no room for "back talk." In a lecture format, any trainee's expression of a different point of view on a subject matter is simply seen as disruptive or rude. The more controversial (and therefore interesting) questions will be turned aside without adequate attention.

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CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA., a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.


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