A Sideways View

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A Really Good Lecture

Many students complain about their professors. Just look at data from RateMyProfessor.com. But why are so many university teachers so poor at lecturing? Is it possible to define the characteristics of a good lecture? Read More

Many people in spite of their teachers, rather than because of them.

Remember the old joke that the definition of a university lecture is that it is a means of getting the information in the lecturer's notebook into the students' notebooks without it going through the minds of either party? Too many believe that that is actually a real aspiration.

Part of the problem, especially in sciences is that lecturers are appointed on their erudition in a narrow field and their success as researchers. Teaching other people is an afterthought. Add to this the documented intent to transfer a specific (very large) volume of facts into the students and it's not a surprise that many lectures are frankly very poor. In fact it's a testament to the good lecturers that they can take this narrow, proscriptive approach and make anything accessible or exciting out of it.

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Adrian Furnham, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at University College London and the Norwegian Business School.


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