Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 8. August 3, 1959
Do we have too many lectures in our universities? Are many of them rather humdrum and routine affairs?
It has been suggested that our modern lecture system is a residue of medieval times when there was a grave shortage of books and students had to rely to a great extent on the lecturer for the acquisition of knowledge. In these circumstances, of course, It was essential that all of the prescribed field should be covered by lectures.
But today, with books readily available, it would be desirable to modify the present arrangements, to have fewer lectures and to devote more time to seminars. Such subjects as philosophy, political science, history, psychology and education are no doubt more suitable than some others for the discussion method.
For instance, there really isn't much point in a man giving a general chronological survey of the French Revolution in his lectures when there are several competent general works on the Revolution.
Surely it would be better if students were to spend a couple of days mastering one of these general works. Then there could be a smaller number of lectures dealing with specially difficult or important topics.
Some progress in this matter has been made in at least one department here, where there are no lectures at all at Stage III and Honours levels; instead, students themselves read short papers (10 to 20 minutes) which are followed by discussion. Stage II students, at any rate, should be mature enough to have fewer lectures and more seminars.
Besides giving more responsibility to students, such a move would enable our overworked staff to devote more time to research. At present, some lecturers publish very little, and although nobody would want to see publication emphasised to the same extent as in the United States there could well be a little more activity in this direction in New Zealand.