And yet, recalling the words of Mark Twain, widespread reports of the lecture's demise are somewhat exaggerated. I believe that we should revisit this
venerable educational method before we sign its death certificate. To be sure, some lectures seem to exert a narcotic effect on the attention and
enthusiasm of learners, and there are more than a few lecturers in health professions schools whose impact can best be described as deadening. But there
are boring small group sessions, too, and even some new, highly touted technologies have turned out not to enliven education.
In other words, there are good lectures and bad lectures, just as there are good lecturers and bad lecturers. Rather than disposing entirely of the lecture
as a means of learning, we should attempt to understand better the features that distinguish effective, engaging lectures from those that leave learners
limp. Good lecturing is an art, and like other arts such as painting, musicianship, and writing, it takes real dedication and many hours of practice to
excel at. Some may be more gifted at lecturing than others, but through study and practice, nearly everyone can improve, some of us substantially.
To begin with, we lecturers must ask ourselves a basic question: why am I lecturing? What will I be able to get across to learners through a lecture that
they could not get just as well and with less inconvenience by reading a book or working through an online learning module? The answer, in part, must be
that the physical presence of the lecturer and the unfolding of the lecture in real time will make a difference for learners. Great lecturers not only
inform learners, they also engage their imaginations and inspire them.
The core purpose of a great lecturer is not primarily to transmit information. To this end, other techniques, such as assigning a reading in a textbook or
distributing an electronic copy of the notes, can be equally effective. The real purpose of a lecture is to show the mind and heart of the lecturer at
work, and to engage the minds and hearts of learners. Is the lecturer enthusiastic about the topic? Why? Could I get enthused about this, too? How could I
use this to take better care of my patients? Is this the kind of doctor or nurse I aspire to be some day?
A great lecturer's benefit to learners extends far beyond preparing for an exam, earning a good grade, or attaining some form of professional
certification. The great lecture opens learners' eyes to new questions, connections, and perspectives that they have not considered before, illuminating
new possibilities for how to work and live. Without question, it also helps learners who pay attention earn a better grade, but it manages to make the
topic take on a life of its own and seem worth knowing for its own sake, beyond such narrow, utilitarian advantage.