Do University Lecturers Teach?

My undergraduate education began in 2002 when I enrolled in University College Dublin to study Gaeilge and Music (Information Studies during my first year). I only wish I had written this blog post or jotted down my thoughts on the topic of ‘Do University Lecturers Teach?’ back then as certain things get lost from memory to time.

What I do remember quite clearly though is bad teaching. This is not to suggest that every lecturer was bad at teaching, there were some inspirational ones, but the bad ones stood out then and still do now. How do I define a bad lecturer? I’ll confine this to my undergraduate experience as my postgraduate experiences were quite different.

A bad lecturer reads from the €70 book that is on the required reading list for the module. This can last for the full ‘lecture’ and offers no opportunity for engagement from the students, as well as no audio/visual aids or examples to enhance instruction.

A bad lecturer in a small group setting will make no effort to discuss the topic. To me a discussion is a conversation between two or more people. A bad lecturer’s view of teaching is talking from the top of his intellect with an expectation that students will learn something from this.

A good lecturer interacts. He asks relevant questions. He answers questions thoughtfully. He invites opinions. He invites disagreement. He invites debate. He invites correction! Fortunately, I got to see this in action on a few occasions.

I’m a firm believer that every third-level employee who has lecturing hours should be required to undertake a mandatory course in teaching/lecturing skills. Some universities offer such a course (UCDMaynooth; and there are probably more), however it is not a mandatory requirement for the lecturing staff.

I believe the outcomes of such a course for lecturers would be of most benefit to students in their first year of study. The transition from school to third level can be a tricky one for some, and if such people experienced good quality lecturing in the initial stages, the potential for dropping out could be lowered. There’s always the argument that the student in university is in charge of his own learning, and I agree to a point. But when there’s a job to be done by lecturers, it should be done properly, and not merely as an afterthought.