Lecture or Group: Which is more effective?


Mr. Pappas finishes a brief instructional lecture before group work.

Oakmont teachers evaluate teaching and learning styles  

Lecture or Group: Which is more effective?

By Rachel O’Neil and Isabella Suarez

There are several instructional strategies teachers utilize to engage students in the class.

Teachers can either decide to lecture or allow collaboration with their classmates. With these thoughts in mind, teachers try to decide what suits their class best. They also choose what allows their students to learn best.

In the small sample size of interviews and observations we conducted, we found these teachers prefer to have their students work in groups more often than in teacher-centered lectures.

Veteran ELA teacher, Ms. Jane Stafford, has decided to cut down on teacher-centered instruction time. Stafford feels that there needs to be more time for students to share their own ideas as well as work. 

Stafford feels that if she were to base her teaching on lectures, many students would stop listening within 10 minutes and not learn as much. 

Although she likes group work, there are some situations where short teacher-focused instruction or independent student work is certainly necessary.  In an eighty-three-minute block, there is time for ‘chunking’ and utilizing different instructional methods.

With this teaching style, she sees that her students are more engaged, and are learning more than just the skill they are working on. Students are learning to become more comfortable with sharing their ideas and talking to new people. 

Even with these benefits, Stafford still receives critical feedback from multiple students. 

Most student critiques are from those who usually prefer to work alone. They don’t feel comfortable working in groups, as well as sharing their ideas with their peers. 

In a similar way to Stafford’s teaching technique, Dr. Natalie Stassen also prefers to have students work collaboratively. But at some points, she tends to give her students lectures as a different way of teaching them. 

Stassen feels that students can also learn more when they are teaching each other. When one student ‘gets it’, she finds that they learn better when they hear others instead of just hearing their teachers talking. 

Stassen believes that allowing students to collaborate on work gives the room a better environment. She also believes that it gives the room more energy as well as her students more engaged in their learning.

Similar to Stafford, Stassen also seems to get very engaged in what she is teaching. When she likes the topic she is teaching, she tends to find more “fun” activities for the students to do.

She shared there are still some students who critique certain teaching methods, telling her that she “isn’t teaching them” or that her way of teaching “isn’t teaching”. With this, she has reflected on and changed certain parts of her teaching style over the years, but overall, the core of her style has remained the same.

Although first-year math teacher Mr. Dylan Billing’s teaching style is similar to Stafford and Stassen’s, often allowing students to work collaboratively, it is still relatively different in its way. Billings allows his students to work in groups, but at the same time, he lectures them to get the point across more directly. 

Billings believes that variety in a teaching style is important. Because of this, he doesn’t always just let his students go off and do their work. Instead, he teaches them from the front whiteboard. 

Billings does allow the students to pick their groups. He feels this has resulted in a harder work ethic among the students.

With the students being able to pick their seats, it has resulted in a more enjoyable, comfortable learning environment. 

Even though Billings tries to make his class enjoyable for all students, he does still seem to get some criticism. With this, he adjusted his teaching style a little, keeping in mind his learning targets. 

With most of the teachers having the same teaching style, social studies teacher Ms. Erin Bergin does not have the same way of teaching at all. 

Bergin has chosen to teach discussion based because she is a history teacher, and sees that most of what she is teaching relates to today’s world. Even though she has a different way of teaching, her style still relates to all the others, from time to time, she will have her students work in small or big groups. 

In Bergin’s classroom, she also tries to keep a fun and positive environment, so that her students pay attention the entire class time. 

Bergin said that with how she teaches her students she has seen an impact on the students’ learning. 

With both of these ways of teaching, Bergin has also gotten some negative feedback about the way she teaches. Even though she does understand these critiques, she continues to use this way of teaching because students can see each other’s points of view on things.

With the eighty-three-minute blocks, teachers sometimes find it challenging to keep their students engaged in their learning the whole time. Each teacher has chosen their style of teaching to fit the class, so the students will want to keep learning. With several teachers implementing student-centered models, it is clear that Oakmont is trying to create a ‘learning community.’