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My perceptions of the lecture method – lessons from a bike ride

24 February 2016

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Consider this typical ‘okada’ ride. I go to town for some important transaction. I have a 5pm class, and I finish the transaction at 4:30 peak traffic period in the Accra CBD. What shall I do? Join a public bus – it’s affordable, but I will be latest in class. Charter a taxi – it is dear, and it will still get caught up in traffic. Think outside the box. Take the okada – something I’ve never done – ride on a commercially operated motorbike. I negotiated the fare. One offered to take me when the other rejected my price. I asked for a helmet for perceived safety, but the stench from the dried sweat nearly muted. I mounted, the ride began as if we were headed for a battle; in fact it was a battle of words. The rider will insult every driver who seemed to cross the bike, or left a small impassable allowance. Some of the insults came to me for hesitating at the back. It was scary. I tried to maintain my balance as much as I could, but he made dangerous maneuvers which to him was fun or perhaps work. My hesitation seemed to heighten. “You really don’t know how to do something if you don’t know how to”, he sneered while looking behind at me, and riding. Ho! we whisked through the large side mirrors of two parallel tipper trucks. We passed before my fear of crushing the helmet into a mirror materialised. We got unto calmer streets. I relaxed a bit. We got close to my destination. Finally we entered the gates to my relief. I alighted and paid my fare. He regretted not charging more because he perceived my profession from the destination. I smiled and thanked him to hide my disorientation. I could not hide my regrets from myself. I kept musing over what made me decide to take such a risk, while justifying myself with the need to arrive in class on time. Meanwhile, the stench from the helmet lingered on even after washing my face with liquid soap. As if all these were not enough, I realised the following morning that the heat from the bike’s exhaust pipe melted part of my right sole – of one my favourite shoes.

What does an okada ride have to do with the lecture method in teaching and learning? “Pleeenty”, I will say. First, like the motor rider, a lecturer mostly assumes that s/he is the only source of information and the learner knows next to naught until the information being produced is consumed. So in a typical 3-hour lecture I handled in September 2014, I kept explaining slide after slide the components of various UML diagrams and how they are used in Systems Analysis. Some learners were quiet looking at me while I kept talking. What relief and how welcoming it is when I grant that 15-minute break. Then, they drag themselves again into class for another 1.30 hours of talk. I control the affairs; they barely ask questions; whether they understand the content or not. They just want the class to end; zero interaction; zero engagement; zero feedback – like behind the back praying you get to the destination quickly. You can barely talk to the rider; he is even threatening to surcharge you should there be an accident from your imbalance.

So, to overcome this monotony, and to enhance engagement with learners who express themselves freely outside the classroom and do not deserve virtual duck taping inside the classroom, I have decided to not pump information into their heads, but to create opportunities for them to share what they know about the broad issues or sometimes what they know about a topic so that we dig this knowledge to discover pertinent concepts in the course. We then extend or apply these concepts to answer group tasks so that we can have an enjoyable and engaging ride.

Share with me any teaching and learning insights you have had from other activities or from reading this piece or what you do to enhance engagement in your teaching and learning environments.



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