Comparing Lecturing and Small Group Discussions

Comparing Lecturing and Small Group Discussions

Gregory C. Petty, Ernest W. Brewer
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch024
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This chapter contains a description and discussion of the teaching and learning methods of the lecture (content delivery method) and small group discussion (interaction method). It also addresses the various steps in using each of these two techniques and compares them along with identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each technique. These formats are explored and discussed regarding procedures for facilitating and presenting and a planning sheet and an evaluation form for each is included. Major studies are cited and used to support strategies and techniques presented. In summary, these instructional techniques are compared and contrasted for their respective benefits for the adult learner.
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Typically when an instructor or teacher thinks about instruction or teaching, lecturing is the mode of instruction that comes to mind. The lecture is an old, traditional teaching method that has been criticized because it provides no opportunity for the audience to participate in the presentation. Telling people what you want them to know, or lecturing, is still one of the most common methods of teaching (Parker, 1993).

A lecture is when the subject matter expert gives an organized, in-depth presentation to an audience. The delivery of a lecture can be formal or informal and is usually accompanied by the use of audiovisual aids. It is a convenient and usually effective method for presenting a large amount of information to an audience in a relatively short time (Brewer, 1997; Brewer, DeJonge, & Stout, 2001; Henson, 1993). The lecture is a method of presenting facts, information, or principles verbally with little or no participation from the audience. The lecture is a carefully prepared talk given by a qualified person (Claycomb & Petty, 1983; Parker, 1993). McKeachie and Svinicki (2006) notes that lectures are good for maining several reasons. They are appropriate for presenting up-to-date information, summarizing matereial, and focusing on key concepts or ideas (p. 58).

In contrast, a small group discussion is simply that—a small group that has been organized to discuss a topic of interest, ostensibly for the purpose of learning about the topic. The typical small-group discussion can serve intellectual, emotional, and social purposes. Emotionally, the participants may have some sort of personal involvement in the issue they are discussing, making it important to them (Brewer, 1997; Brewer et al., 2001). Socially, group discussion builds a sense of cohesion and trust with one another (Lee & Ertmer, 2006; Sweet & Michaelsen, 2007).

A well-conducted group discussion will end in acceptance of different opinions, respect for well-supported beliefs, and improved problem-solving skills. Overall, it will promote the sharing of information and all members will gain insight concerning the thoughts of others before reaching consensus on a topic (Young, 2007).

Most of us interface in small groups all the time. Of course most people have work groups in their organization but small groups include school, social, religious, and professional groups as well. The dynamics of a group usually reveal certain features that characterize the group. This chapter will examine some of these characteristic features, including leadership, status, roles, norms of behavior, pressures to conform, and cohesiveness (Brewer, Hollingsworth, & Campbell, 1995).

Both the lecture and the small group discussion seek to educate the participants on a topic. Each method has strengths and weaknesses. This chapter will address and describe these methods and the advantages and disadvantages of each. However, before going into the strengths and weaknesses, it would be helpful to identify several operational definitions relating to these instructional methods. They are presented at the end of this chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical-Thinking: Items that involve analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the concepts.

Cooperative Learning: Is a topic frequently mentioned in conversations about improving education, regardless of the discipline or level of instruction. An activity involving a small group of learners who work together as a team to solve a problem, complete a task, or accomplish a common goal (Artzt & Newman, 1990). A task for group discussion and resolution (if possible), requiring face-to-face interaction, an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual helpfulness, and individual accountability (Davidson, 1990).

Lecture: A method of presenting facts, information, or principles verbally with little or no participation from the audience. The lecture is a carefully prepared talk given by a qualified person.

Individual Learning: An instruction method in which students work individually at their own level and rate toward an academic goal.

Collaborative Learning: An instruction method in which students work in groups toward a common academic goal.

Group Cohesiveness: The degree to which group members pull in the same direction and have unity.

Drill-and-Practice Items: Items that pertain to factual knowledge and comprehension of the concepts.

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