Lecture and other traditional pedagogies have been under fire for many years. Many commentators believe that "active learning" is highly preferable—a self-directed regimen in which students advance across certain quantifiable thresholds.
Have a look at this blog post by John Warner, in Inside Higher Ed., for a summary of the arguments and a concise response. The site contains links for background. One takeaway from the post is that active learning is fine for certain subjects, but it falls apart for others. The author teaches writing, and is a novelist. "Prof. Wieman [a noted advocate for active learning] is searching for a unicorn, which exists in novels, not real life," Mr. Warner says.
It is understandable that teachers in math and science fields would seek a means of instruction that involves precise quantification. And it's clear that digital communication opens up amazing new worlds of learning and measurement.
But amazing new worlds are also opened up by a gifted instructor, standing in front of a class. You remember. The technique need not consist of lecturing with no interaction from students. Such as: We all read an assignment, then we discuss, probe, elaborate, and find a connection to our own lives. This is bad? On the contrary, it should be a cause for jubilation when it works. Students walk out of the class brimming with enthusiasm, not to mention further questions.
Advocates for active learning are correct. But so are those who favor more traditional pedagogies. It depends on the teacher and the subject. As the writer indicates, it also depends upon a host of other variables, even the time of day, as he adopts a different strategy at 1:00 p.m. than for 8:00 a.m. We have all noticed a different profile of students in sections that have opened during late registration, for example. These students are "at risk" almost by definition and may need more repetition to drive the points home.
There are no unicorns. Sorry. And there is no magic algorithm to revolutionize instruction for an educated mind.