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by Cynthia A. Brewer, M.Ed.

We all go to conferences for one reason or another. Some go to enhance their learning and perfect their craft, while for others it might be to gain a new perspective, seek out new talent and resources.  Then there are those of us who just “crave academic nourishment”, in the words of Steve Urkel. The Lilly Conference is an interesting venture that can meet any and all of these needs of teaching and learning scholarship. I had no idea what to expect, but as with most new things that I try, I look at them with an open mind that is fresh with opportunity and unlimited possibilities.

Our plenary presenters, Dr. Elizabeth Barkley, Dr. Clair Howell Major, and Dr. Todd Zakajsek, were each uniquely engaging and had their own flair for approaching their audience and keeping them engaged. The conference is dedicated to “Evidenced-Based Teaching and Learning.”  A lot of focus was placed on engaging lecturing. We have been hearing so much these days about how lecturing is a thing of the past, or should be, and the move toward flipped classrooms, project-based learning, etc. etc.

Education and teaching tend to go through these cycles of how best to reach the new generation of students. So, as with anything, as an instructor with some years on your belt, you will either choose to venture out into the deep water, stay in the shallow end because of comfort, or wade in the middle and hope for the best. So just exactly what is the perspective on lecturing? Do we still need it? Does it really need to go completely away? Well, after attending this year’s conference, I would have to say a resounding yes, we still need it and, no, it doesn’t need to go away. Are there ways to help bring the excitement back into it? Absolutely!! Quite honestly, I don’t think it will ever go away completely nor should it.

We continue to learn more and more about neuroscience and how our brains take in information, process it and then reconstruct it for understanding, and it is absolutely amazing. Lecturing plays a big part in that deliverable. Lecturing can be engaging and innovative at the same time. It is all in the approach and presentation. Looking at what we want our students to learn and take away from that lecture can come in multiple forms [MISSI, this is goobledy gook]. How we assess and use that assessment data can come in many forms as well. For example, all assessments don’t have to be high stakes.  We can engage student learning through low stakes assessments. One session presenter showed how the integration of a technology like Kahoot.com! can not only change the way you lecture but allow you to gauge your students’ understanding in real time. It costs the instructor nothing but a little front end time developing questions, but it brings a little excitement to a lecture and, hence, more engagement. You can learn more about this tool at Kahoot.com

There was so much at this conference that it went by very fast, but I can honestly say that I came away even more excited about being an instructor, teacher, and professor of lifelong learning. Ultimately, the bottom line that I walked away with and the research that was presented is that lecturing doesn’t need to go away.  It just needs to be coupled with student active learning. We as instructors have some control over that in how we develop our courses and the content within our lessons. We can better understand what our students are getting with low stakes assessment that can give us real time data. With this we can decide whether or not we need to provide more scaffolding support in order to obtain the results we desire. These are the things we CAN control. To learn more about engaging lecturing, you’ll want to check out the upcoming well researched text by Dr. Barkley and Dr. Howell Major. The textbook is titled Interactive Lecturing: A Handbook for College Faculty.

Check out the Lilly Conference next year in Austin. It will be well worth your time. Better yet, step into the deep water and consider presenting.