Have you ever caught yourself day-dreaming, or just zoning out while someone else is talking? Be honest. Has it happened during a casual conversation? You’re looking right at a person and your mind wanders. I’ve done it, and I’ve even had really great ideas while doing so. However, I should be coming up with great ideas in moments I create for myself to day-dream, rather than during a conversation with someone.
If this happens during a regular conversation, what happens during a lecture, where you are all but forced to do nothing but listen? Listening is good — it is an acquired skill. It is more than hearing because it requires our brains to process information. Doesn’t processing suggest we should be doing something with that information, though? What are we doing with it?
The lecture seems to rely on note-taking as the “doing” in this situation, but is that enough? There are plenty of note-taking strategies, but another strategy should be incorporated — active learning. Questions, partner work, and collaborative activities engage students and help them do something with the information they are trying to move from short-term to long-term memory.
Lectures have a place, as I’ve said before, but we need to craft a better structure for them and integrate some active learning to makes sure students are actually learning, and not just running out of gas half way down the road.