Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stand and Deliver

"Students paying high fees will expect high-quality lectures in return" - so says George Watson who is a Fellow in English at St John's College, Cambridge. His article "Stand and deliver" in the Times Higher Education Magazine gives us Lecturers "tips on how to meet those expectations". 

"The Lecture" from the works of William Hogarth.
The British Parliament has decided to introduce fees for third-level education - and Watson asks if students will be looking for value for their money. Will they have the traditional power of the customer? Getting value for money is not as easy as it sounds - Watson makes an interesting argument and compares how it is "a lot easier to get into the (British) National Gallery, which is free, than into the Louvre, where you have to stand in a long queue to buy a ticket". Some students are certain to value their education more if they have to pay for it - and they will expect high standards. If fees are re-introduced here in Ireland, we educators are certain to be put to the test - I hope that we can stand up to the challenge. I believe that we already provide a high standard of education at third-level in Ireland. But it is human nature to expect more when you have to pay for something out of your own pocket - no matter how good it was when it was free. 

To get back to George Watson's "tips" - there are three:
  1. Put the notes as high as the lectern permits, to raise the chin. 
  2. Look at the back row after every sentence or two, since voice follows the eye. 
  3. And do not drop the voice at the end of sentences

Watson warns us that "only the first, which can be done at once, can be consciously remembered and obeyed". We have to work on the other two. 

This is a good start to becoming a better Lecturer and providing better value for money - I intend to follow this advice as much as possible. When I was a student myself I mostly sat near the back of the lecture theatres, and often felt that the Lecturer was not talking to me - just my classmates in the front rows. We have to speak to every student in the classroom and make them feel involved. Otherwise, as Watson concludes,  students "silent or censorious in the back row, will probably expect nothing else".

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