Excerpt from Surgo 1977 Edition:
Are lectures a waste of time?
A proportion of medicine is downright boring. Few people would dispute that. But much of medicine is made far more boring than it even needs to be and the reason is quite simple: bad lecturing.
A primary or secondary school-teacher has to undergo a course of training before he or she is allowed to teach but almost any fool can walk in off the street and give a University lecture. Judging by recent efforts this happens frequently.
Just why are so many lectures frankly awful? Let’s examine the facts.
Lectures are usually given by an expert in that particular subject. That is a mistake. Experts have an unfortunate tendency to get rather carried away when talking about their own particular interest. Instead of being a docile little family man with a wife, two children and a Morris Marina, the lecturer transforms into a ravin hypomanic werewolf-like beast practically foaming gat the chin as he flashes up another white-lettering-on-blue-background slide of experimental data applicable to only 0.05% of waltzing frogs during a freak electrical storm in the Caribbean in 1885. When challenged by a member of the audience on the relevance of this, he replies that this is to ‘illustrate’ a particular point. The lecturer uses the slide projector, not as a visual aid, but as a psychological weapon. With it he can plunge the lecture theatre into darkness, thus making note-taking impossible. It also permits him to chatter on at breakneck speed, without having to write anything on the blackboard. Detail is emphasised rather than clinical importance but what doctor really cares whether a particular bacterium has flagella or not? All he needs to know is what infections it causes and what antibiotic will kill it.
Having said all that it is not surprising that many students choose to skip lectures and learn the work from textbooks. Astonishingly some lecturers protest at this absenteeism and even insist on attendances being taken at tutorials. This is a ridiculous attitude. If students don’t attend lectures the lecturer should take that as meaning that the lectures are no good. After all, if a new film was to come out and no-one was to go and see it, one would think it odd if the makers of the film accused the general public of being at fault.
How could this situation be remedied? Couldn’t lectures be limited to 40 minutes and given by someone who hates the particular subject? That way, only important points would be emphasised. Or, even more radical, why not abolish lectures altogether? Instead the students could be given sets of notes outlining the basics of the subject and giving guidance to further reading. That way there would be more time available for practical clinical experience. After all, we are all going to be dealing with patients eventually. Human patients. Not waltzing frogs…
Sound familiar? Above is an article from a 1977 edition of Surgo. How many of us have complained about a lecture? It seems that the use of slide projectors (or PowerPoint) as a “psychological weapon” is just as common now, in 2015, as it what when most of our lecturers were, themselves, being lectured.
What is proposed in the article above is the beginning of the whole PBL idea – self directed learning. All of us spend the first two years here doing PBL, then progress to CBL to learn how to proceed with the care of our future patients. However, most of you will agree, it is only with lectures to complement this learning that we are able to become good clinicians.
Having said this, lectures do not suit everyone, so Surgo asks you this:
Do you think attendance should be taken in lectures and why?
Please email your opinions to the editor at email@example.com and we will incorporate the best answers into the next issue.