I’ve been thinking a lot about lecturing and student engagement. We soon must figure out the courses we will teach for next year and I’m likely going to be teaching our intro class, the art history survey part 1. That class is set-up so that we must cover a lot of material. After some experiments last fall – when I last taught History of Western Art I – I came to the conclusion that such a course is probably best taught with a majority of the class as lecture. But this has me concerned, because based on many articles and books that I’ve read, most agree that lecturing tends to take away from increasing student engagement in their own learning.
In all of my other classes, I employ a problem-based learning approach. Nearly every class is filled with in-class assignments that encourage the students to apply the material that they have learned through the readings they prepared for class (and you can tell this way who has not done the reading). That does not mean there is no lecturing, but it’s balanced and serves to support the problem-based learning initiatives for that day. I’ve written about many of these types of assignments on the blog, especially the Roman Art and Architecture class, in which I first started to move towards a more problem-based learning pedagogy.
But I am troubled by how to approach our 1000-level survey classes. History of Art I and II are really important classes for our majors. They are required to take these two classes and our department has deemed recognition and identification of major monuments of art as a learning outcome for our department.
The changes I have made to the class prioritize recognition of styles of art over memorization – even though they must learn something about the major monuments of western art history. Because of the emphasis on recognition of styles in works they’ve not seen, some vestiges of problem-based learning continues to thrive in that class, too.
But the bulk of the class focuses on lecturing. So, friends and colleagues out there — if lecturing is the best way to get these ideas across in this 1000-level class, does that mean there will be necessarily a sacrifice of student engagement? Does lecturing really mean that some students will simply tune out? Is there a better solution that I am missing?