Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The lecturer as performer - Ferdinand von Prondzynski

Following on from my (almost confessional) blog post earlier this week on Classroom Behavior, I read with interest Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski's thoughts on The lecturer as (a) performer. My own frustrations in my own class are put into perspective by von Prondzynski's views that we need to be more than just a stand-up lecturer.

Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski.
Photo from
I agree 100% with his view that "if you want to see students in your lectures you need to give them a reason for being there". In some of my classes I have very poor attendance rates - in others excellent (I'm glad to say). BTW - the taxpayer is paying the fees of the students who do not attend classes, there should be some accountability for this. I feel a sense of failure every time I enter the classroom and the majority choose to stay away. In one class where I have 150+ students - attendance is regularly in the region of 30-50 students. Last year this class was smaller - but 43 out of 70 students failed the summer exam. This year's students just don't seem to care.

von Prondzynski goes on to describe what a Lecturer should be - someone with "personal flair, wit, some little eccentricity, cleverly applied sarcasm, a passing knowledge of popular culture, and some flair for acting". Wow - no pressure! He goes on to say that the "lecturer ideally should be a performer, able to hold the attention of a particularly difficult audience". Wow - no pressure! 

Most of my time as a Lecturer has been with small classes. But I have always wanted the experience of lecturing in front of large (150+) students. But the large classes have not been a good experience for me, nor can they be a good experience for my students.

I fear that failure rates will be high in the summer exams again because most of my large class chose to stay away, and many of those that chose to come to class were disruptive and inattentive. This means lots of work marking repeat exams in August, and sadly (for the students) a summer spent studying for the repeats instead of doing what they should be doing - travelling, having fun, working, learning.

It's hard to live up to the ideal lecturer model that von Prondzynski describes. But nevertheless - he does make valid points, and reading between his lines I see that there is a lot more that I can do to make my classes more interesting. Here's to the next semester!

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