II. Teaching in the College
When asked about teaching methods, most people quickly identify two main types of instruction — discussion and lecture. In fact, many would argue that these are the only two methods, with all others merely being variations on these two basic themes. Debates about which method is preferable seem to be an annual event in academic circles and frequently are divided along disciplinary lines. Teachers in the physical sciences generally lean more heavily toward the lecture format, whereas those in the humanities, and in some areas of the social sciences, lean more toward the discussion format.
The question of lecture versus discussion, however, is actually less a disciplinary issue than one of purpose. Where the primary mission is to supply information, the lecture format is generally more effective. Conversely, when the goals are oriented more toward process and changing behavior, discussion teaching is typically more effective. In the following sections, each format is discussed separately, but you should read both sections as you are preparing to teach. In the included readings, three experienced teachers offer good advice for teaching in general, whether the assigned topic is discussion teaching or lecturing, and all three raise some controversial points that you may want to consider for further discussion with your peers. All methods of instruction are useful to meet some goal. Therefore, even if you now think that you will be exclusively using the lecture method, it may be useful to have some ideas about what can be accomplished via discussion, and vice versa.
Also, we have included essays on teaching by: