Saturday, March 19, 2016

Giving the worst lecture ever

Yesterday at Faculty Focus there was an article by Amy Blanding, Kealin McCabe, and Heather Smith from the University of Northern British Columbia titled The Worst Lecture Ever. It described beginning a course on presentation skills with a series of bad examples:

“We held the Worst Lecture Competition during the first full week of classes. The instructors and a graduate student competed for the Worst Lecture award, while students evaluated and voted for the worst lecture. 

Drawing on literature about effective presentations as well as personal feedback and our own experiences, we identified characteristics of the worst presentations. Then we divided those characteristics among ourselves, determined the personas we would adopt, and prepared to deliver the worst possible lecture. 

Heather presented a lecture about her cats. With slides full of cat photos and the enthusiasm of a devout cat lover, she shared plenty of useless facts and deviated from the topic to include photos of her trip to Australia. Heather was disorganized, unprepared, and tangential. She dressed sloppily, included quotes without citations, and cited problematic sources. On the plus side, she did have a clear learning objective. Unfortunately, she didn’t meet it… perhaps because she ran over the allotted time.”

Providing bad examples can be a humorous way to teach. I’ve previously blogged about Mixing up clear English and turning it into mud and Don’t be a “Flip Chart Charlie.”

The image was adapted from a 1944 drawing of a bomb lecture by Victor Alfred Lundy found at the Library of Congress.


David Low MS PhD said...

It strikes me that an even worse lecture in some ways than Heather's would be the famous occasion on which Suzuki Roshi "explained" Zen. After being introduced at the podium, he simply smiled at everyone, then proceeded to sit down in the middle of the stage and meditate. As he continued doing so, people got more and more bewildered miffed as they realized that Suzuki wasn't going to say anything. So, guess if the lecturer becomes the lecture, its good in some ways and bad in others.

Richard I. Garber said...


That's pretty bad. I recall reading Nick Morgan blog about how the Dalai Lama once sat still and looked at his audience for three minutes before he beagan to speak: