There can be a tendency to assume that formal lectures have little function in education today. However, they remain an effective teaching tool, if used in the right context. Lectures are a teaching strategy that we can easily learn to do well, but it is also easy to deliver them badly. In the past, it often seemed that doctors were all expected to be able to lecture, in one context or another. The professionalisation of medical education has changed this, but the lecture remains a key teaching method.
In this chapter, I will take a very practical approach, in large part informed by Reece & Walker (2000), Minton (1997) and Sullivan & McIntosh (1996), three sources that have helped me to develop my own lecturing style. The chapter begins with a brief consideration of why lectures continue to be used. It then moves on to consider how a lecturer can best prepare and deliver a lecture. Because a degree of interactivity can enhance a lecture, suggestions are made for how lecturers can make their own teaching more interactive. The chapter also discusses some common problems and possible solutions before it outlines some techniques for continuing professional development.
First, spend a little time on the exercise presented in Box 7.1.
Box 7.1 A reflective exercise on lecturing
Think of good and bad lectures you have attended. Now reflect on what, from your perspective, made them that way. Then:
• Make a list of the characteristics of a good lecturer.
• Make a list of features of a good lecture.
Lectures as an effective teaching technique
For the purposes of this chapter, a lecture is considered to be a formal presentation to an audience of 50 students or more. If the student number is less than 50, it is much easier to incorporate features of small-group teaching (see Chapter 8) and to minimise the disadvantages of the lecture methods. The audience number will usually dictate the venue. A traditional lecture theatre is not conducive to interaction between students and the focus is largely on the lecturer.