The value of lectures at universities: Preliminary results from first-year student surveys

Year: 1994

Author: Waugh, Geoffrey

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teaching at universities has undergone somewhat of a revolution in recent years. And yet the straight lecture still plays an important role in the range of available techniques. What is it that students find attractive in very large lectures? In this paper comments from student surveys, over a four-year period, from one large lecture group of between 700 to 900 students in each lecture, are analysed.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, students do perceive great advantages in attending lectures, even in such a large group. However, the judgement of the value of lectures lies not so much in individual learning, but in the role of lectures as creating an atmosphere, defining the boundaries of the material, setting the tone, and motivating them to perform better as part of a group, leading them through new landscapes, and providing them with a structure. They are more likely to react as a group than as individuals, suggesting perhaps that many of the advantages of large lectures are best analysed in terms of group behaviour, rather than individual behaviour. Further, the benefits of large lectures need to be seen as a complement to small-group teaching, and not as a substitute.