Speaking

Peter Goodhew

My principal hobby as an undergraduate was working backstage with the Guild Theatre Group - the student theatre club at Birmingham. Although I never took to the boards, you could interpet my subsequent career as an academic as a belated (but life-long) attempt to woo an audience. I have always loved, and still do, standing up before a captive audience and trying to make them both understand something and laugh - preferably at the same time.

There is a deep irony in this admission: For the last fifteen years I have been trying to persuade academics to lecture less and allow students to do more - active learning, as we now know it. However this is more difficult than standing up in front of a class of passive listeners (even if they laugh occasionally), which I believe explains the reluctance of most so-called university teachers to change their ways despite the overwhelming evidence that it would be better for their students if they did.

Anyone appointed to teach in a university should be forced to read "What's The Use of Lectures" by Donald Bligh, which showed plentiful evidence (in 1971) that a non-interactive lecture to passive students is about equally as useful to the student as the instruction "read chapter 3 of the textbook". Both are effectively useless to all but a tiny minority of students. Unfortunately Bligh's book was out of print for many years, but there is now an American re-issue which you can find on Amazon (on paper only, I fear!).

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