Should Lectures Be Eliminated in Medical School?

Lectures have always been a staple way of educating in medical school, particularly in the first two years.  But are they the most efficient way to learn?

PROS:

•  There are excellent lecturers, who can provide insights and important points not presented in other sources.

•  The lecturer, as a facilitator, is available to the student for clarification of ideas that are not clear.

•  Lectures provide a different avenue of learning that can add to the learning experience.

CONS:

•  You can’t just stop in the middle of a lecture to mull over the ideas, or go back, as you can with a book or an electronic presentation.  Key points may be missed, especially if you can’t write fast enough.

•  Students learn at different paces, and books and computer programs allow students to learn at their own speeds.  The quality of computer teaching programs is continually improving.

•  In cases where a lecturer speaks poorly, or does not teach with clinical relevance, would it not be better to use computers or clinically relevant texts to learn?

•  Some lecturers in the basic sciences may be excellent researchers who would make better use of their time in the research lab, where their talents and interests lie.  The department could also save money by hiring fewer lecturers.

•  Clinicians can be good sources of clinically relevant information, but are often too busy to put in a consistent teaching schedule.

Some students do not show up at lectures, and others do so because it is more likely that what a lecturer says will show up on an exam.  Others rely on note takers.

Should the emphasis on lectures be reduced?  Should more teaching shift to self-learning?  Would it be better to provide students with a list of clinically important concepts and points to learn in the basic sciences and then allow the students to learn them at their own pace?

What do you think?

Posted on November 20, 2011, in Medical School Curriculum and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. And, of course, the most important issues are educating students and well being able to recruit and keep the best teachers possible.

  2. Lectures are important. However, I feel that students should do most of the work on their own, having been given an intro and an overview, just to help them see-like it’s well emphasized above-the clinical relevance.

  3. Given that there is a clear shortage in quality lecturers as a student I would whole heartedly move to eliminating lectures. My experience is that after 20 minutes if the lecturer is not amazing than most students are not paying attention and working on other projects on their computers. Grueling 6-9 hour lecture days are a complete waste of time. Why should I sit through a lecture which the lecturer is simply reading off of the slides anyway?

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