Regarding the Feb. 16 front-page story “The last lecture? Colleges look for better way to teach”:
At their best, and especially in the humanities, large lectures can be an efficient and inspiring means of imparting and intertwining broad reaches of information necessary for future study. People who teach such courses tend to hold deep convictions about the ideas and questions presented in them, and they want to share them with as many people as possible.
The Post quoted a prominent professor who said of lectures that it’s “insulting” to have a “professor reading a book to you”; he’s right, but what’s insulting is professors who reduce lectures to this — and those who perpetuate the misinformation that this is what happens generally in good lecture courses.
Peter Mallios, Silver Spring
The writer is an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland.
The story on lectures rightly pointed out limits of this classroom practice as a teaching tool, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The demands of STEM necessitate a rigorous college curriculum, but to attract and retain students with ever more diverse life and learning backgrounds — and to meet President Obama’s goal for 10,000 more engineering graduates annually over the next decade — we must rethink the entire learning experience.
STEM graduates today enter a global workforce, and to be successful they might rely as much on nontechnical skills — like teamwork and communication — as on technical training. Proficiency in ingenuity, problem-solving and scientific insight, integrated into interdisciplinary approaches, will create tomorrow’s “renaissance engineers,” as some innovative engineering programs call them. Forcing students to learn under the previously dominant teaching paradigm will ensure that some of the best and brightest transfer out.
Don P. Giddens, Washington
The writer is president of the American Society for Engineering Education.