One of the recurring themes in the many recent contributions from those giving their tuppence worth on the ‘woes’ of education is the idea that the traditional lecture is obsolete. Whether it is or not is debatable: I happen to think that lectures are still worthwhile but I always try to incorporate a bit of ‘active learning’ into mine. But I find the constant equating of third level education with ‘lectures’ extremely frustrating. When a student goes to third level, he or she will typically learn by attending lectures, by attending tutorials in smaller groups, by taking part in all sorts of wet and dry labs, by doing individual research projects, by doing group projects, by giving presentations and, crucially, by doing a hell of a lot of study, or what is now called ‘independent learning’.
So let’s have a bit of balance here and think about whether the teaching and learning experience of students is adequate in its totality. For me, the ‘solution’ to many of the issues that people angst about in education is simple: ensure that every student is taught in a variety of ways, learns in a variety of ways, is assessed in a variety of ways and is encouraged to enjoy the experience. I happen to think that many third level institutions are doing quite well in this regard especially given that they are hugely under-resourced. We need to present a much more accurate, and fairer, image of what it is that we do.