We’re revisiting the debate about compulsory lectures in our medical school. Attendance was poor at a series of lectures on important themes that mostly aren’t formally taught elsewhere in the curriculum.
Our University regulations don’t make lectures compulsory, but in the Medical School we say that attendance is compulsory at tutorials, PBL, practicals, and clinically-based experiences. The reason for compulsion is usually stated as something to do with these being essential experiential events, or specifically about group working skills, and the learning from these can’t be got in any other way. Group activities may also include an element of assessment around contribution.
Local feelings vary widely. Some lecturers are outraged when attendance at their lecture is poor, others just disappointed, yet others thrilled to have a smaller, more engaged audience. Some clinical modules state that attendance is compulsory; some even document it. But in the medical curriculum’s early years, as across the university in general, attendance at lectures is not compulsory.
Some ask that if the learning objectives can be achieved in other ways, why should lectures be compulsory? We’re dealing with adult learners who are learning to prioritise. Others argue that ability to show up to scheduled events is an important professional attribute.
As we get more creative and interactive in our ‘large group teaching’, some of these events may be harder to replace with books. Does using particular teaching approaches blur the issue?
What do you think justifies making attendance at a teaching event compulsory? What else might we do to make lectures ‘unmissable’ to students without compulsion? Suggestions below please – click on comments just below this, or use the box at the foot of the comments.