Lectures in medical education: Is there a future?

While most of my blog focuses on the benefits of simulation within medical education, I’m always keen to read about the opinions of others. In a concise and well written article in the Atlantic by Dr. Richard Gunderman. While he acknowledges the pitfalls of lectures, he raises some excellent points regarding their value. Just like most things, absolutist statements (like all lectures are bad and provide no learning) are likely wrong. He argues that

The great lecture opens learners’ eyes to new questions, connections, and perspectives that they have not considered before, illuminating new possibilities for how to work and live.

I still recall some of my favorite learning moments in medical school and many occurred during lectures. Some of my most memorable professors were memorable because they lectured in a way that was captivating and inspiring. While I do strongly advocate against lectures (in general) because I believe we have superior methods for education, they should not be eliminated. We need to harness the skills of those lecturers to whom we could listen all day and impress that upon learners. Learners can then be encouraged to become great lecturers or they will become so inspired by a topic that they wish to become an expert that leads to great change. I’ll end with this quote from the article. It highlights the value of lectures often beyond our typical perceptions.

The real purpose of a lecture is to show the mind and heart of the lecturer at work, and to engage the minds and hearts of learners