News

Former Defense Department General Counsel Appointed Harvard’s Top Lawyer

News

Democracy Center Protesters Stage ‘Emergency Rally’ with Pro-Palestine Activists Amid Occupation

News

Harvard Violated Contract With HGSU in Excluding Some Grad Students, Arbitrator Rules

News

House Committee on China to Probe Harvard’s Handling of Anti-CCP Protest at HKS

News

Harvard Republican Club Endorses Donald Trump in 2024 Presidential Election

The Lecture System: Its Value at Harvard

Though By No Means Perfect, It Makes The Great Professor Available to Many

By Philip M. Boffey

The lecture has become one of the most despised of educational tools. Obsessed with the mania of group dynamics, educators have vilified the lecture for boring the student, for wasting his time, for separating him from his instructor, and even for retarding his ability to think.

Yet the lecture system remains firmly entrenched as the chief method of teaching at Harvard. Most lower-level courses are taught in some combination of lectures and sections, and the greater number of upper-level courses at the college are taught entirely by lecture.

Believers in the status quo often consider this sufficient reason for retaining the system. Clinging to a method which is hoary with tradition, they point out that the great names in the University's past have also in large part been its great lecturers.

But this argument is essentially illogical, for it ignores the fact that the great men would probably have been great under any system. The real problem concerns the lecture as a method of instruction, and now that the University has embarked on the greatest educational drive in history, it seems appropriate to reassess the lecture's role in the learning process.

Anyone who advocates abolishing the lecture system might change his mind if he asked himself two simple questions: "Who is the greatest lecturer I have ever heard?" and "Would I want him to be available to a greater or to a smaller number of students?"

For it is one of the undeniable virtues of the lecture system that it makes the great minds of the University available to a large number of students. It would, of course, be fine if each student could meet with a distinguished professor in a small group, but it seems obvious that such a man could not possibly handle the 200 students he now lectures to in groups of ten each. He simply would not have the time.

In the Humanities and the Social Sciences, this "availability of the great mind" is especially important. For in these two areas the aim of the ideal lecture is not so much to cover a certain amount of material as to line up the problems in the field and get the student to understand how one goes about dealing with these problems.

In this sense the lecture is an avenue into the speaker's mind. It gives his listeners an opportunity to see how he handles his material, and how his mind works. It is different than a book, which is a finished product and has the answers set down, for in a lecture the speaker can treat his subject as if it is heading toward being definite, while at the same time he can explain the difficulties and problems which are still unsolved.

This insight into the speakers mind is regarded as one of the real contributions of the lecture system by Harold C. Martin, Director of General Education A. "One thing you can't duplicate," he says, "is the intelligence of the lecturer. Large numbers of students are introduced to a subtle mind working in a fashion never before met. They encounter kinds of human activity they never dreamed existed."

Lack of Thinking?

But the proponents of small groups have seized upon this aspect of the lecture system as an evil thing. Although they feel it is good for the student to encounter a subtle mind, they contend that under the lecture system he becomes so concerned with what the subtle mind is thinking that he neglects to do any thinking himself. They argue that the lecture system makes the student merely a passive blotting paper who absorbs the speaker's thoughts, rather than a creature who thinks actively for himself.

In its polemical issue of last spring, I.e. had this to say about Harvard lectures: "The most frustrating thing about lectures at Harvard is the impossibility of disagreement or questioning. One must suppress one's doubts in order to hear and copy down; if one thinks about one's questions one loses track of the babble, and when it is over one has the sense of having missed something, though undoubtedly one hasn't. Not only does one not learn from lectures, one also loses the ability or the urge to ask questions."

The difficulty in countering this argument lies in the fact that there is a good deal of truth in it. One defect of the lecture system does lie in the relative passivity of the student. It is one thing to follow a lecture carefully, concurring step by step in the argument, but it is obviously quite another thing to assume the role of the lecturer himself and carry through the argument on one's own.

In defense of the lecture system, however, it might simply be pointed out that there is no virtue in mere activity, and that it is often profitable to sit at the feet of a greater than to pursue one's own confused through.

It might also be pointed out that for some people lectures can be a very active and experience, even more so than a small meeting. William G. Perry, Jr., Director of Bureau of Study Council, feels that something who are inhibited in small groups by the stand need to keep on their guard and the part of the conversation, are able to in a lecture and become very involved and emotional. They manage to with the speaker and get an empathic feel that he is going.

Even admitting, however, that the produces a certain amount of passivity on the student, it is nevertheless small discussion group, whether a or tutorial, in several respects.

In contrast to the section meeting, usually represents a certain amount preparation. One weakness of the that instructors can stroll into it with severe amount of intellectual planning, often the opening question of "Well, we discuss today?" means not so much "I fully trying to draw out your reactions them into fruitful channels" as "I'm today, so let's have a bull session." not all lecturer's are well-prepared the more formal aspect of the lecture most of them to organize their carefully.

The lecture is also important in that it a swift synthesis of a wide range of of which is not readily available in and because it sets forth a point of view, can not think in a vaccum, and the often one of the best points from which .

Nothing that is said here should be mean that small group teaching has whatsoever, for it has a considerable should be equally apparent that the of small groups would encounter many against abolishing lectures entirely.

Not the least of these would be money, and space are three obstacles be overcome by any scheme for teaching groups. Although enough additional might be recruited (with loss in however), Dean Bundy estimates that cost the college about 50 per cent more its students in groups of 10-15 than it the present system.

An even greater problem is presented space. The University's classroom already bursting at the seams at the hours. Rooms in the top of the Union pressed into service, and more, and men have to be told that they can't hold at these hours.

Exclusive of 300 and 99 courses, the GSAS, and Radcliffe currently 27,000 bodies a term (a body being times the number of courses he if Harvard wanted to teach all these groups of ten, it would need 2700 assume a six-day week, and if we the group meetings would be of week tutorial variety, there would have tutorials every day! And if we assume groups would meet in sections three times a week, there would have to be 1350 section meetings a day! It seems obvious that there are just not enough classrooms at present to house such a large number of small groups.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

The lecture is also important in that it a swift synthesis of a wide range of of which is not readily available in and because it sets forth a point of view, can not think in a vaccum, and the often one of the best points from which .

Nothing that is said here should be mean that small group teaching has whatsoever, for it has a considerable should be equally apparent that the of small groups would encounter many against abolishing lectures entirely.

Not the least of these would be money, and space are three obstacles be overcome by any scheme for teaching groups. Although enough additional might be recruited (with loss in however), Dean Bundy estimates that cost the college about 50 per cent more its students in groups of 10-15 than it the present system.

An even greater problem is presented space. The University's classroom already bursting at the seams at the hours. Rooms in the top of the Union pressed into service, and more, and men have to be told that they can't hold at these hours.

Exclusive of 300 and 99 courses, the GSAS, and Radcliffe currently 27,000 bodies a term (a body being times the number of courses he if Harvard wanted to teach all these groups of ten, it would need 2700 assume a six-day week, and if we the group meetings would be of week tutorial variety, there would have tutorials every day! And if we assume groups would meet in sections three times a week, there would have to be 1350 section meetings a day! It seems obvious that there are just not enough classrooms at present to house such a large number of small groups.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Nothing that is said here should be mean that small group teaching has whatsoever, for it has a considerable should be equally apparent that the of small groups would encounter many against abolishing lectures entirely.

Not the least of these would be money, and space are three obstacles be overcome by any scheme for teaching groups. Although enough additional might be recruited (with loss in however), Dean Bundy estimates that cost the college about 50 per cent more its students in groups of 10-15 than it the present system.

An even greater problem is presented space. The University's classroom already bursting at the seams at the hours. Rooms in the top of the Union pressed into service, and more, and men have to be told that they can't hold at these hours.

Exclusive of 300 and 99 courses, the GSAS, and Radcliffe currently 27,000 bodies a term (a body being times the number of courses he if Harvard wanted to teach all these groups of ten, it would need 2700 assume a six-day week, and if we the group meetings would be of week tutorial variety, there would have tutorials every day! And if we assume groups would meet in sections three times a week, there would have to be 1350 section meetings a day! It seems obvious that there are just not enough classrooms at present to house such a large number of small groups.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Not the least of these would be money, and space are three obstacles be overcome by any scheme for teaching groups. Although enough additional might be recruited (with loss in however), Dean Bundy estimates that cost the college about 50 per cent more its students in groups of 10-15 than it the present system.

An even greater problem is presented space. The University's classroom already bursting at the seams at the hours. Rooms in the top of the Union pressed into service, and more, and men have to be told that they can't hold at these hours.

Exclusive of 300 and 99 courses, the GSAS, and Radcliffe currently 27,000 bodies a term (a body being times the number of courses he if Harvard wanted to teach all these groups of ten, it would need 2700 assume a six-day week, and if we the group meetings would be of week tutorial variety, there would have tutorials every day! And if we assume groups would meet in sections three times a week, there would have to be 1350 section meetings a day! It seems obvious that there are just not enough classrooms at present to house such a large number of small groups.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

An even greater problem is presented space. The University's classroom already bursting at the seams at the hours. Rooms in the top of the Union pressed into service, and more, and men have to be told that they can't hold at these hours.

Exclusive of 300 and 99 courses, the GSAS, and Radcliffe currently 27,000 bodies a term (a body being times the number of courses he if Harvard wanted to teach all these groups of ten, it would need 2700 assume a six-day week, and if we the group meetings would be of week tutorial variety, there would have tutorials every day! And if we assume groups would meet in sections three times a week, there would have to be 1350 section meetings a day! It seems obvious that there are just not enough classrooms at present to house such a large number of small groups.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Exclusive of 300 and 99 courses, the GSAS, and Radcliffe currently 27,000 bodies a term (a body being times the number of courses he if Harvard wanted to teach all these groups of ten, it would need 2700 assume a six-day week, and if we the group meetings would be of week tutorial variety, there would have tutorials every day! And if we assume groups would meet in sections three times a week, there would have to be 1350 section meetings a day! It seems obvious that there are just not enough classrooms at present to house such a large number of small groups.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Practical considerations are not an adequate defense of the lecture system, of course, for there might well be better methods of handling large numbers. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that professors would do everyone concerned a favor if they simply passed out mimeographed copies of their lectures instead of delivering them in person. They argue that the student would thus get the swift synthesis of the material and the lectures point of view in about 1/4 the time it now takes him to listen to a lecture.

But there are several reasons for retaining the in-person lecture. Some lecturers, though admittedly a minority, have an inspirational impact which can not be put down in black and white. Merely to hear these men speak is often enough to arouse the student's interest in the subject.

Clarifying Value

Most lecturers do not have this impact, of course, but even for the ordinary, workaday lecturer there are several advantages in a personal delivery. For one thing, if he is there facing his students the lecturer can see what goes over and what doesn't, and he can thus expand and clarify confusing points. This can be particularly important when dealing with highly technical or highly complex material.

Secondly, the lecture can be an important tool in the lecturer's learning process, and has served as the proving ground for many a book. Oscar Handlin, professor of History, notes that lectures are an excellent arena in which to test one's ideas. He reports that he often begins a lecture thinking he has the answers, but by the time he reaches the end he sees that they weren't such good ideas after all. "It's easy to come up with what look like sound theories in your head," he says, "but when you try to convince a group you sometimes see them in a different light."

Admittedly, the lecture system has limitations. It tends to induce a certain amount of passivity on the part of the student; it tends to widen the gap between student and instructor; it tends to over-emphasize the position of one authority, and the student is in danger of coming out of the lecture of even an undogmatic professor in a dogmatic frame of mind. Moreover, it can be abused. A few lecturers are unprepared and disorganized. Some, with the power of hypnotic verbalization, manage to hold their audiences through sheer personality rather than because they have anything important to say. And an insecure professor with psychological problems can misuse the lecture to bolster his ego.

The value of the lecture system is also less in some fields than in others. In the sciences, for example, it has a limited usefulness. In sharp contrast to the humanities, where differences of opinion and personal interpretations make a lecture stimulating, the aim of a science lecture is mainly to get over a considerable body of knowledge. The facts and theories are generally accepted, at least in the College-level courses, and personal viewpoints become less important.

As Preston observes: "Much that you get in a science lecture could be gotten through mimeographed notes. In physics we have to aim at coverage of the whole structure of knowledge, and the lecture system is probably not the best way to do this. The textbooks have been worked over from edition to edition and can pretend to a greater completeness."

There is a definite place for the science lecture, particularly in the treatment of the concepts, such as force and mass, which are generally dismissed in a one-sentence definition in the texts. But there is an equally definite place for the thorough textbook and the small section meeting to clarify confusing points in it. The teaching of the sciences would probably be improved if the rigid lecture system were modified to put more emphasis on the section meeting.

Most of the defects of the lecture system are not irreparable, and it must be realized that all systems of teaching can be abused Although one defender of the discussion group may find that "the ingenuousness, the insight, the mad spontaneity of freshmen discussing Hobbs or Adam Smith or Burke is like nothing else in the realm of discourse," a large number of sections tend to be dominated by glib, superficial people.

The real problem is not to find a substitute for lectures, but to find a means of improving them. To a large extent the impetus for improvement will have to come from the lectures themselves Too many of them use the lecture as a means of shot gunning vast quantities of information at the hapless student, who spends an uncomfortable fifty minutes frantically scribbling down everything that is said. This kind of lecturer, would do the student a favor by handing out mimeographed copies of his lecture, for then the student would be certain that he had the facts straight, and he would be able to absorb them in a fraction of the time.

Howard Mumford Jones, professor of English and a staunch defender of the lecture system, feels that another weakness of the lecture system is that it is the "star system" at the moment and that each lecturer acts too much on his own. He believes that if lectures met together periodically to exchange views they might help one another develop better men.

A large part of the responsibility improving the lecture system lies the students, however. Too many of regard themselves as mere belts between the speaker and books, and the lecture almost goes "in one ear and out the There are even some students tell you afterwards what they have down during a lecture.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Prohibit Note-Taking

Perhaps the situation would automatically improve if all lecturers stopped regarding the lecture as a means of vast quantities of information perhaps an even surer improvement would be to prohibit note-taking in lectures, for then the student would to follow the lecture closely so could jot down the important points , yet he would not get so wound up in voluminous note-taking that too busy to really listen.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Whatever improvements are however, it would be foolish to rely completely on the lecture system. An ideal balance should be between lectures and discussion groups tutorial work, in which each supplement the others and weaknesses.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

It seems patently absurd to abolish a method which has so many counts in its favor as has the lecture system. Moreover, there may well in small group teaching, for old Martin observes "Maybe it do well to have only small obsession with method grows, Chicago method, or with the method or with the Columbia Group dynamics can become a grown thing. You can forget what doing and what you are committed of it."

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Raphael Demos discusses the morning Philosophy lecture with one of his section men.

John Finley, master of Eliot House and in Hum2, unravels the of Milton to one of His students.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags