Lecturing does not improve students’ understanding in mathematics

Scientific Evidence Platform Needs more evidence Lecturing does not improve students’ understanding in mathematics
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The mathematics educational community has been showing a growing interest in student-centered approaches. A lot of criticism towards lecturing has been expressed by mathematics educational researchers. Does lecturing contribute to students’ understanding?


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“the use of the lecture format has been the subject of heated debate among scholars of university education for many years. Although some mathematics education researchers (e.g. Alsina, 2001; Mason, 2002) have expressed scepticism about the value of the traditional lecture, the harshest criticism of the lecture as an effective mode of teaching has been voiced by general education scholars (e.g. Biggs & Tang, 2011; Bligh, 2000).  Bligh, drawing on various empirical studies, identifies four distinct kinds of objectives a lecture might have: The acquisition of information; the promotion of thought; changes in attitudes; and behavioural skills (Bligh, 2000, p. 4). He concludes that lectures are as effective as other methods for transmitting information, but less effective regarding the other objectives. On the other hand, some scholars, both of mathematics education (e.g. Pritchard, 2010; Rodd, 2003) and of general university education (e.g. Friesen, 2011; Jones, 2007) have argued the continued relevance of the lecture format. It has also been claimed, for instance by Neumann (2001), that much of the criticism of the lecture format fails to consider differences between academic disciplines. As remarked by Pritchard (2010), this tends to make this criticism less relevant to university mathematics education. However, the above debate is rarely informed by empirical research based on observations of actual lecturing.” (Viirman, 2021, p.  467)

Viirman, O. (2021). University mathematics lecturing as modelling mathematical discourse. International Journal of Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education7(3), 466-489


“To conclude, the research literature suggests that there exists diversity with respect to instructors’ pedagogical perspectives and overarching goals, and that this diversity could lead to substantial variability with respect to the informal content made available for students in lectures by different instructors.”


Pinto, A. (2019). Variability in the formal and informal content instructors convey in lectures. In The Journal of Mathematical Behavior (Vol. 54, p. 100680). Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmathb.2018.11.001

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