My research topic is the result of being influenced by two books - yes real books! The first one is a classic research text, first published in 1972. It's by Donald Bligh and is called 'What's the Use of Lectures?'. The second book was published much later in 2010, it's by Nancy Duarte and is called 'Resonate - present visual stories that transform audiences'. These two books are the ingredients behind what I want to look at which is whether the university lecture has a narrative or story structure.
|Two books that have influenced me|
Bligh's book, which has been republished many times in the forty years since 1972, details the plethora of research that has been carried over many years to show that (in a nutshell) the lecture as a teaching method is only effective at the transmission of factual information, and even at this it is no better than other teaching methods. In essence, this book and many other sources describe how unfit for educational purpose the standard university lecture is.
My starting point in thinking about the lecture was a growing dismay at the poor use of presentational technologies, such as PowerPoint, by lecturers during their teaching sessions. I include my own lectures in this. Imagine the experience of the average fresher sitting in the darkened lecture theatre on week one of their degree waiting expectantly for their lecturer to deliver the very first lecture. The average student will experience between 250-300 lectures, probably most using PowerPoint, before they emerge after three years with their qualification.
When Bligh wrote his book, PowerPoint and Keynote were a long way off. So imagine that not only are lectures not an effective method of teaching, they may have actually been made worse by the use of new technology. That's not progress.
Stories, storytelling and narrative have long had a role in education, including higher education. Stories and narrative help with meaning making of experiences. Duarte's book describes how story structures are found in many great speeches, presentations and artistic performances and how they are fundamental to communication. So if a company wants to inspire change in its employees or if a politician wants to elicit loyalty in their followers, they use narrative to connect with their audiences, create support for their vision and effect change in people.
Here she is talking about her 'Resonate' approach.
My starting point on this was wondering if Duarte's ideas could be applied in a higher educational context to the humble lecture? Surely the goal of education is to inspire, move and change people. Perhaps narrative and stories offers a way forward for the much maligned (probably PowerPoint-based) lecture.
I hope we shall see.