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compulsory lectures. They will want to criticise and question, they will want to do some of the teaching themselves, they will want the class study circle and the discussion group in preference to the ex cathedra lecture, they will want to use the teacher as a guide, or as a wall against which they may throw their ideas just to see which way they do bounce-or whether they bounce at all.
Once we teachers have worked out an idea of our function in the educational scheme of things we shall probably evolve many varied kinds of teaching. The following is an account of an attempt to devise methods more in keeping with recent developments in educational thought and practice. The experiment was made in two courses given in the University of Adelaide, but for purposes of illustration the application of the new methods to Economic History only will be described.
The old plan of covering the ground in a course of sixty lectures was discarded. When the class, about thirty-five in number, met on the first day of the session, a typed assignment of work was given to the students. This assignment gave first a brief description of the scope and subject matter of the next fortnight's study.1 Then came a list of books or selected chapters, both general and specialised; certain books or sections must be read by all, but additional reading on some special topic was expected as well. Finally, a list of about five essay subjects was given, on one of which each student had to write an essay of about 1,200 words.
After the assignment had been read through and explained, the lecturer gave a short lecture which aimed at arousing in the students a lively interest in the period they were to study. The class was shown a distant bird's-eye view of the ground they were to walk on later, or were given the view from various angles.
After this introduction the students went away and for the next twelve days worked by themselves. Summaries had to be made of all books read, and these summaries must be handed to the lecturer at the end of the period for inspection. On the thirteenth day the students assembled in groups of not more than eight, with the lecturer present but sitting in a back corner of the room. A chairman was elected to control the meeting. Each student in turn read his essay, and was subjected to questions and discussion by his fellows. The chairman might then call for the comments of the lecturer, and finally the group and the lecturer classified the essay. The students gave their votes by ballot, which were then averaged into various shades of A, B, C, D, and the chairman then opened the signed vote of the lecturer. If there was any serious difference between the group vote and that of the lecturer, the teacher's vote prevailed, but this rule had to be applied only once during the whole course of the experiment. The writer of the essay could challenge the fairness of the verdict if he wished, but this very rarely happened. At the end of the meeting book summaries, and essays which had not been read for lack of time, were handed to the lecturer for inspection. After going through these critically, the teacher again met the class, discussed with it the fortnight's work, and in a short lecture dealt with points missed by the students and generally rounded off the study. To drive the matter further home a typewritten summary was distributed, containing the teacher's views on the period studied, and this was discussed with the class. Then a new assignment was given out, its subject matter outlined, and the class dispersed.
1 E.g.“ English Medieval Trade. Origins of English capital. The fairs. The Jews. The Gild Merchant. Development of English trade generally.” The whole of this assignment work was planned and conducted by Mr. Mackay.
It will be evident at once that this method of study escapes many of the criticisms brought against the lecture system. The student is certainly not passive; he has to read, summarise, and write for himself, with just that small amount of guidance given in the initial talk on the assignment-a talk which might perhaps be compared with the “ Contents " pages with which Dr. Marshall and Professor Pigou preface their books. There is no forcible feeding beyond the prescribed minimum of reading; the student can go at his own pace, and travel as far beyond the minimum requirement as he wishes. Writer's cramp disappears, and practice produces marked improvement in the art of summarising books. Above all, the group meetings make possible the gaining of self-confidence, foster questioning and discussion, make students try to do good work for fear of the censure of their fellows, and provide, as part of the day's work, for that “ contact of mind with mind” which is always blessed as the essential virtue of a good university, but which usually, in the new universities, has to be sought in the smoke-room or in students' societies.
The experiment was carried on for the first half of the session, and at the end of that period the class was asked to meet, and draw up a report embodying its opinion concerning the method of study and making suggestions for the improvement of the system. This was duly done, and a lengthy report, signed by the class chairman, was handed to the lecturer conducting the experiment. This report may be regarded as expressing the honest opinion
of the students. It first states the advantages of the plan as follows:
(1) Range, depth, and amount of work covered.
of greater interest, because topics of wider interest
can be discussed. (6) Gather up the threads of the work done in summaries
and essays—clarify, crystallise and correct one's
(6) Make one definitely formulate one's ideas.
after the writing, reading, and criticising of an essay. (5) Summaries.-(a) Are direct evidence of work done.
(6) Are valuable for future reference. (6) Group discussions.—a) Extremely valuable. Controlled
by students. (6) All get the benefit of the specialisation of others. (c) Different points of view are aired and mental activity
intensely stimulated by the competitive element. (d) Are almost social functions; the formal lecture
theatre atmosphere is absent. The disadvantages are next stated. (1) Amount of work done is out of all proportion with other
university subjects. (2) Lays an excessive demand on the time of people engaged
in other work, or other subjects, to their detriment. Hence the “constructive criticism” submitted by the class chiefly reflects the feeling that the burden had been too heavy, and urges smaller assignments, a smaller minimum of reading, a longer period in which to do the work, and if possible the extension of the course to cover two years instead of one. That the work was too heavy is admitted by the lecturer, but it is gratifying to see that the class had no desire to go back to the old lecture system.
From the teacher's point of view certain comments can be made on the plan. The work was more exacting and strenuous than a lecture course would have been. To compile an assignment, attend the discussion groups, examine and comment on the book summaries, and deliver a lecture of the type required
was far more exhausting in its demands on one's energy, patience, ingenuity, and tolerance than would have been the preparation and delivery of four lectures. But experience has taught the need for making less heavy the burden for teacher and student next time, and meanwhile the effort was amply repaid by the startling indications of the improvement in the quality of the students' work as the session went on. The class was working for the Ordinary B.A. degree, with one or two Honours men included. For the first assignment most of the students did third-class work, with one or two firsts and a few seconds. When the experiment ended in the middle of the session, nearly all were in the first class for their essays and summaries, a few were in the second, and none in the third. Later on, when the examination confirmed this improvement, students and teacher alike had the satisfaction of knowing that the results were gained by steady work and constant improvement throughout the whole year, and were not due to a successful third term's spurt of hard cramming and lucky anticipation of questions.
Before describing the examination, however, a word must be said concerning the work done during the second half of the session under another lecturer. The field to be covered was the period since 1760, and for this certain books—Macgregor, Evolution of Industry, Knowles, Industrial and Commercial Revolutions, the Select Documents, and an Australian text-book-had to be read. One lecture a week was delivered on topics, British and Australian, on which the lecturer had carried out research, but it was felt that students should know something about the many recent works on modern developments. A book summary meeting was therefore held every Saturday morning. Each student was set the task of summarising one important book, and the list included such volumes as Levy's Economic Liberalism, Scott's Joint Stock Companies (Vol. I), Wallas' Life of Place, Hovell's Chartist Movement, Sombart's Quintessence of Capitalism, C. K. Hobson's Export of Capital, Williams' Cecil Rhodes, Morison's Economic Transition in India, and Tawney's Acquisitive Society. The student, in a half-hour summary of the book, had to give a general outline of its contents, indicate the important sections which others should try to read, and express an opinion on the value of the volume. Questions and discussion followed, and hard-worked students thus came to know something about the contents of a large number of books they had no time to read. The chief criticism of these meetings, made by one of the students, was that members of the class probably knew little beforehand about the theme of the book, and their questions and comments were therefore uninformed, rambling and at random. This defect will be overcome in some degree by asking each student to prepare for circulation a digest of his book, and copies of this digest will be handed round the day before the summary is read.
An experimental year ended with an experimental examination. It was felt that the student's classification should depend quite as much on the work done during the year as on the answers to a set of questions. The examination should be a confirmation of the year's work rather than the sole test of it. Therefore all written work done during term was counted as equivalent to one paper, and two others were set on examination day. Further, it was felt that an examination should be not so much a test of memory as of a student's ability to use his books in facing and discussing problems. Students were therefore allowed to bring text-books, essays, book summaries, and atlases into the examination room. By carefully framing the questions we had made it impossible for anyone to copy the answer from the books; but the candidate who really knew his subject could strengthen his arguments and make sure of his facts by reference to the contents of the kit-bag at his side. Actually, the best students seem to have made little use of their books. Their memories were too good, or the time was not long enough to allow them to search for chapter and verse. But all agreed that it gave confidence to know that the volumes were accessible if required.
No claim is made that the teaching plan described above is the only road to the educational Rome. The actual methods pursued last year will be modified at many points this session in the light of teacher's and students' experiences. They cannot be applied to classes containing more than thirty or forty students, unless a staff of tutors is available. Probably other teachers are evolving methods better than those tried in Adelaide. But the results of a year's trial, whether tested in the light of recent educational theory, or by the quality of the students' work and the enthusiastic zeal with which the class attempted herculean tasks, suggest that we are not on a wrong track.
A. L. G. MACKAY
H. HEATON University of Adelaide.