8 °CBroken clouds
|Opinion||Tue, 11 Oct 2011||Tweet|
by Sarah Yaseen
Note: All articles in the Opinion section are the views of the individuals expressing them and do not represent The Stand's official stance on anything.
In my seventh lecture of the year, I found myself staring in confusion at the pad of paper on my neighbour's lap. Where was the happily humming MacBook with PowerPoint at the ready? The lecturer then walked in and proceeded to give an incredibly eloquent talk on Democratic Peace Theory, using only his deep baritone and wild gesticulations. Where was the projected slide-show? He spoke with such communicative enthusiasm that not a single word slipped out of my notes. The complete lack of PowerPoint presentations in the room was an aberration and this got me thinking; St Andrews has a PowerPoint Problem.
PowerPoint in lectures are no longer there to merely illustrate the main focus of the class, but instead it has completely taken over lectures, becoming the centre of gravity, monopolising students’ attention. When, finally, all the bullet points have been clicked through, an hour has passed and the lecture is over. A quick look one’s notes will confirm that only a few lines have been scribbled on to the page.
Coming from a French system, I started missing the traditional two hours cours magistraux. Of course PowerPoint has crossed the Channel, but generally it only displays the general outline of the course, the main figures, some books references and visual illustrations at most. Usually, students have their eyes on the teacher, rather than on the PowerPoint projection. As remarkable as it sounds, they are sometimes able to take decent notes without slideshow assistance. Far from being annoying, the best teachers I remember were those who relied completely on their oral skills.
Of course, I understand the need to use images to help students take notes and have a visual grip on the lecture’s content. The tendency to take this to extremes, however, seems to be endemic in the British educational system. After two weeks at St Andrews, I realised how different my experience abroad was going to be. Having only four hours of classes per week, I understood the necessity of acquiring self-discipline in order to fulfil the incredible list of readings. But this new-found autonomy stops right where the readings end. In addition to the tutorials, teachers devote an amazing amount of time to their students during office hours to discuss matters related to the course, mainly concerning due essays. Being guided through difficulties is a valuable thing in a university, but when it goes beyond polite help, it becomes unhealthy assistance.
Some students seem to be unable to deal with a subject before discussing it expansively with their tutor. I don’t remember discussing a presentation or an essay with a teacher before its submission in my entire curriculum. When I write an essay, naturally, I have a hard time finding a relevant bibliography, an accurate outline and the right approach with the appropriate methodology. However, instead of asking the teacher for help, I spend hours in the library hunting down the right books, and more importantly, hours discussing my subject with my fellow tutees. These discussions have been the most valuable in my university experience.
Autonomy is an essential skill to learn at university. Maybe it is time for our lecturers to realise that all that extra help and all those gigabytes of PowerPoint presentations are harming rather than helping us.
Written by Sara Kudoai- understand writer
|Tweet||The Stand Point|