The lecturer as performer
Ask me which lecturers I remember best from my student days, and you’ll get a ready answer: the one who was able to poke fun at current trends while almost dancing around the room; the one with an amazingly casual style and irreverent manner; the highly strung and personally shy individual whose obviously required constant effort to be there at all demanded respect. And in a curious way, I also remember the man who had long given up on lecturing, who came into the theatre without looking at anyone, then sat down and read out his never changing lecture notes in an oddly monotonous voice. I cannot remember a single thing he tried to teach me (if he did try, that is), but I remember him. Even though I gave up attending his classes after the third one.
Back in those days there weren’t too many competing attractions. We didn’t have computers or mp3 players, there was no day-time television or pubs open before the evening, there was hardly even anywhere to eat out that a student could afford. Nowadays of course it’s all different, and if you want to see students in your lectures you need to give them a reason for being there. And I don’t mean good content. I mean personal flair, wit, some little eccentricity, cleverly applied sarcasm, a passing knowledge of popular culture, and some flair for acting. The lecturer ideally should be a performer, able to hold the attention of a particularly difficult audience.
Of course the trouble is that we don’t give today’s lecturers enough help in preparing them to engage their students. Some of what they need is not a standard approach to content and structure or even to learning technology, but just some guidance as to how to be themselves so that their students can connect with them. We need to allow them to be memorable. In a good way.
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