Banning the "L" Word

Lesson Launch Blog

By Dr. Paul E. Binford
President, Mississippi Council of the Social Studies

Lecture:  a discourse [or a formal, organized talk] given before an audience or class especially for instruction. [1]

Notice:  The “L” word—lecture—is being banned from this blog!


The term is anachronisitc harkening back to the sixteenth century.  However, its roots go back even further to two related Latin terms lectura “a reading” and lectus “to gather, collect, pick out, choose.”  In its latter sense, lecture is closely related to another English word of particular relevance to democracies and social studies education—elect—which also involves a picking out or choosing.[2]

The term’s Medieval entomology is not a satisfactory justification for its exile.  However, its instructional ineffectiveness is sufficient cause for banishment.  As John Medina notes in Brain Rules, people remember 10 percent of information presented orally, tested 72 hours after exposure.  That figure goes up to 65 percent by adding an image (2014, p. 192; see also this link:  The results of a 2010 small-scale survey study conducted in a southeastern state provides some confirmation for what has been long held (Russell & Waters, pp. 7-11).  In answer to the open-ended question, “What do you dislike about social studies instruction?” over 400 middle school students listed the following as their least favorite:


74%--Rote Memorization and Note-taking

70%--Worksheets (Russell & Waters, pp. 10 & 11)

In brief, to choose to lecture is to elect the least effective way to impart information to students using the least engaging approach—direct instruction to passive students. 

Happily, an alternative term is available—presentation.  And, at the very least, this mode of information delivery has the potential to engage both the visual and the auditory senses increasing the likelihood that students will learn.  Furthermore, Lynell Burmark, the author of They Snooze, You Lose, offers an array of practical suggestions to enhance your next teacher presentation.  More on that next week in the Lesson Launch blog.

For more information about this Lesson Launch blog entry, or if you are interested in arranging professional development or a speaking engagement, please contact the author at:

[1] The source of this definition is Merriam-Webster at this link:

[2] The entomology of lecture is summarized by the Online Etymology Dictionary at this link:

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