A method of teaching used mainly in higher education, where students are taught in large groups, often in specially designed lecture theatres, which are tiered so that all students have a view of the teacher (or lecturer) and whatever resources or visual aids are being used. The advantage of the lecture is that it allows a large number of students to be taught in a relatively short length of time. It is therefore cost‐effective in terms of human resources. From an educational point of view, however, it does have some disadvantages, including the fact that the lecture format does not easily allow for student–teacher dialogue, and that it requires students to possess sophisticated note‐taking skills if they are to benefit fully from the process. The very term ‘lecture theatre’ itself goes some way towards setting expectations of the respective roles of lecturer and students, since it implies that the lecture will be a performance on the part of the lecturer, thereby casting students simply as an audience. The model of learning implicit in this scenario is a very restrictive one, predicated on the student as the passive recipient of learning. Moreover, the lecture, as a method which lends itself well to teaching in the cognitive domain, is less effective for other types of learning such as the acquisition of practical skills. It could also be argued that anything capable of being said in a lecture could as easily be presented in written form for students to read at their leisure, thereby dispensing with the teacher–student contact altogether. On the other hand, an interesting lecture, well delivered, may both inspire and motivate its audience.
The term is also used in a less precise way in both further and higher education to mean any type of lesson, as in the sentence ‘Lectures begin at nine o'clock’, where the ‘lectures’ in question may, in fact, be seminars, practical laboratory sessions, or lessons in a normal classroom.
Subjects: Education — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).