Long live the lecture!

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Presented by Associate Professor Melanie White

The sociologist Erving Goffman famously called the lecture an ‘organised form of talk’ in which a speaker imparts their views on a subject in a serious and impersonal manner. The lecture not only seeks to impart truth or interpretation in the service of knowledge but also requires the presence of an audience for whom the subject matter – linguistics, mathematics, politics, history – is assumed to be the draw rather than the performance itself. 

But irrespective of whether it is delivered face-to-face or online, the lecture medium has seemingly fallen on hard times. Its detractors have maintained that the lecture is a site of complex power relations that represent its colonial legacy, a unidirectional model of knowledge transmission, and/or a site of passive learning. 

Even so, there is something special about the lecture that distinguishes it from other currently celebrated forms of pedagogy such as the seminar, tutorial, flipped classroom, webinar and the lectorial. 

In the final Scientia Education lecture for 2021, A/Prof Melanie White considers what makes the lecture so distinct as a form of meaning-making, pedagogical experience, and knowledge production. The effect is to see the lecture not simply as an organised form of talk but also as intrinsically valuable in its own right.


About the Speaker

Melanie White is Associate Professor of Sociology in Arts, Design and Architecture at UNSW Sydney.  She is Deputy Head of School (Education) for the School of Social Sciences and has been a Fellow of the UNSW Scientia Education Academy since 2018.  She has won several teaching awards, and is committed to enhancing the student experience and uses experimental techniques to transform her lectures into sites of active learning. Her research and teaching expertise is in classical and contemporary social theory with a particular interest in non-human sociality, habit, creativity, and sympathy.