I think one doesn’t truly appreciate the simplicity and ‘sameness’ of British university lectures until Sixth Form (or years 12 and 13 – these are ages 16 – 18) or not even then, depending on whether one is exposed to that lecture-style teaching.
I was fortunate to fall into that former group of Sixth Form students, so the change of teaching style did not hit me so much. At my former school, we had Culture and Technology talks, which involved a number of speakers on a number of diverse topics. Being the hungry-for-information writer I am, and craving ideas, I always took notes.
And that skill has proven invaluable across the ‘step’.
On Tuesday, I was, once again, exposed to one of my favourite topics of Psychology: Perception (I have promised to finish the latter half of the post on perception in Lewis Carroll). The lecturer – Holmes! – took a typical lecturer stance of standing at the front of the lecture theatre talking through his PowerPoint and taking us through the beginnings of the biology of encapsulated and unencapsulated cutaneous nerves and their uses.
However, it’s up to us, the students, to annotate the handout frame of his PowerPoint with each of his additional pieces of information provided by his words alone. It’s our option to do so. And our responsibility. This is what makes university tutoring different from the school teaching stuff; far less interaction occurs between teacher and learner, note-taking is essential to catch every point.
Over 200 of us sit in that theatre. Lecturers have no way of communicating with each and every one of us, obviously. When less information is purveyed through the visual, one needs to switch to an auditory, automatic and simultaneous power to take down one’s environment another way. And this also gives each student’s notes a personal touch.
Another differences is that, whilst technically compulsory, lecturers can be avoided if one thinks they will add nothing and the knowledge can be supplemented by one’s own work. Technically. We’re not supposed to, but, whilst they register us for our seminars (small talk groups, somewhat like classroom teaching), they do nothing of the sort for those lectures.
And that’s the basics of British lecturers. I can’t say I have any idea how other countries’ lecturers work, but I have given some insight, I hope. I’ve yet to have a tutorial and my first laboratory practical is in the next weeks. British university life for me is a combination of these things.