Should lectures be a thing of the past?

As Deputy Dean and Lead Nurse a lot of my time at the moment is spent leading the work to develop our new pre-registration nursing curriculum against the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (2018) Future Nurse standards. As editor of Evidence Based Nursing I am also keen to ensure our curriculum is evidence based. We have been reviewing the available evidence and I am surprised at how little research there is to underpin what we do as nurse educators.

One of the things I would like to do is to get rid of lectures. When I mentioned this to my neighbour his response was “but what would you spend your time at work doing if you weren’t lecturing”.  So to clarify I am not suggesting we don’t teach students at all rather I am suggesting that there are more effective ways of teaching our students. We need to move away from simply standing up at the front of a large lecture theatre with a PowerPoint presentation.

But what does the evidence say? Freeman et al. (2014) undertook a meta-analysis of studies (n=225) reporting data on examination scores and/or failure rates in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses using traditional lecturing versus active learning. They concluded that average examination scores increased by about 6% in active learning sections and students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning.

These results were enough for  Streveler and Menekse (2017) to conclude that engaging students using active learning strategies enhances student learning. So I could, I think rest my case here and decide to ban lectures. Indeed, we (should) have known for many year that lectures aren’t an effective teaching strategy. So why is the lecture, at many universities, still the default way of teaching? I suspect much of it is down to resourcing. Academic staff are worried that using active learning strategies will require them to teach more hours – I’m not sure this is the case rather I believe (although to date I haven’t found any evidence to support either viewpoint) that it is about working in a different way. Another issue potentially relates to skill mix. Do Schools/Faculties, for example, have sufficient e-technicians to help them develop quality online active learning activities? We also need to consider that academic staff who have spent years developing their lecturing skills may not have the skills required to deliver, for example, seminar groups instead.

I’d be really interested to hear what you are doing in your Universities and hearing about other work in this area. Are you banning lectures? What types of active learning are you using? How did this impact on your workload? What were your development needs? Have student progression rates improved? Message me on Twitter (@alitwy) to let me know.

Professor Alison Twycross

Deputy Dean and Lead Nurse, London South Bank University


Freeman, S., Eddy, S.L, McDonough, M., Smith, M.K., Okoroafer, N., Jordt, H. and Wederoth, M.P. (2018) Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 111(23): 8410-8415.

Nursing and Midwifery Standards (2018) Standards of proficiency for registered nurses. Available from: [Accessed 12/07/18].

Streveler. R.A. and Menekse, M. (2017) Taking a Closer Look at Active Learning, Journal of Engineering Education, 106( 2); 186–190.



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