Lecturers can't twitter on in new media age 1

February 26, 2009

In your cover feature "No apples for teachers" (19 February), George MacDonald Ross, senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Leeds, says: "If there is anything worse than a bad lecture it is a good one ... really good teachers tend to get quite average ratings from students ... lazy students ... give good teachers low ratings because they are expecting them to work."

This kind of talk will doubtless be heard in many departmental meetings across the country, as complaints from students are put down to them not being up to the job of knowing what's good and what's not.

Here's a thought: if different cohorts of students from different year groups across different degree programmes say someone is a poor teacher, there is a pretty good empirical basis for thinking that is the case.

There are many ways to deliver an effective lecture and we all know a good one when we see it: we know a bad one, too. In terms of delivery, good ones have energy, spontaneity and creativity, whatever the subject matter. It is disingenuous to imply a correlation between a well-structured, entertaining lecture that emotionally connects with the audience and one that gives all the answers.

Lyndon B. Johnson said that speaking about economics was like pissing down your own leg: it feels hot to you but it never does to anyone else. Students, in fact all audiences, live in the world of YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo and 695 television channels. The day is long gone when a self-important, distant and underprepared bore can twitter on for ages just because he knows his stuff.

Russell Wardrop, Glasgow.

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