Split-brain scholarship

December 12, 2013

Most of us at one time or another must have encountered students who say something like, “I haven’t done any of the reading, I bet it is rubbish anyway: in my opinion…”, and then proceed to spout nonsense. We then have to think of something polite to say in response, perhaps something on the lines of: “You don’t seem to have got the hang of scholarly discourse. Can I suggest you read X? Then let’s have a conversation.”

In “Signal and noise in the lecture theatre” (Letters, 5 December), a response to my piece on the evidence about lecturing (“The chalk and talk conundrum”, 21 November), Kevin Smith writes that lectures do indeed provide “essential functions”. How does he know? Is he applying the same burden of proof here as he would in his own discipline?

This is a phenomenon I have encountered throughout my career. It is as if academics have a “disciplinary” cortex in which they are well informed, rational, rigorous and careful, while in their “teaching” cortex they emote strident opinions. And the corpus callosum has been severed, so they are unable to spot the difference.

Graham Gibbs
Winchester

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Reader's comments (1)

I ran a workshop around the issue of learner-involvement a few years ago at LSE. A member of the staff group (a politics professor) said during one part of the discussion "I don't see what students can possibly learn from talking to each other in my area." He was right.

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