In defense of the college lecture

Finally! I decided to become an academic historian because of a brilliant lecturer and Bede scholar, Roger Ray. My whole career, I have attempted to emulate Roger and taken every opportunity to improve content, delivery, engagement, etc.

Three relevant points here. Academics are not taught to be lecturers. (I particularly enjoyed the author’s discussion of the passing of the discipline of Rhetoric.) When Char started at BGSU and I was still ABD, I tagged along to hear a speaker they had brought in to teach “how to draft a lecture.” Simple, brilliant outlining. I used the method the first four years that I taught (at UT and OSU), keeping a careful page of notes for each lecture that included an “after-action report” of what I did well and poorly, what connected and what didn’t, etc. That’s it for my “training” as a lecturer. Now, Miami does run an excellent set of Learning Communities for the enhancement of teaching – I’ve participated in over a dozen – but I have never seen one offered for lecturing.

Next, we are definitely NOT promoted because we are effective classroom teachers. I can say from personal observation that I have seen a number of exemplary and beloved lecturers denied tenure, in my opinion because their colleagues were threatened by their ability and derided them as “popularizers”. In a similar fashion, those who receive poor student course evaluations always poo-poo the process and act as if students are incapable of judging “quality” instruction. Its always “men always get higher evaluations” or “its just  popularity contest” or some other line.

Last point: a well-crafted lecture is the most effective way of conveying and/or reinforcing knowledge. Every instructor at every institution can’t be Socrates and every student isn’t a Plato. We don’t have the time or in our modern, degenerated world, the capacity for the Socratic method. Nor is the best way always student self-discovery or whatever silver bullet the educrats are in love with this year.

In short, read the article.


About George Vascik, Historian

A 1988 graduate of the University of Michigan, I have taught history at Miami University since 1992. I maintain blogs on teaching Western Civilization and on Great War. My research focuses on anti-Semitism and rural politics in northwest Germany. I am completing a monograph for Bloomsbury Press, Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics. You can follow my project at Along with Mark Sadler, I have published a book of primary documents on the Stab-in-the-Back Myth (Dolchstoßlegende). I also invite you to visit my profession web page at
This entry was posted in HST 121, HST 122, Reflection. Bookmark the permalink.

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