Training Tips for Ships: Stop Lecturing Me!

By Murray Goldberg

Does your training still employ traditional “classroom style” lectures where an expert conveys their knowledge to your trainees? If so, your training is an example of a diminishing trend; there is an industry-wide move away from lectures. The 2019 Maritime Training Insights Database (MarTID) report showed that while operators intend to increase their use of almost every type of training surveyed (simulation, videos, eLearning, etc.), classroom-style training stands alone with more operators intending to reduce its use than increase it. There are very good reasons for this move away from classroom-based lectures. For those responsible for maritime training, it is a call to action. It is time to stop lecturing.

What’s Wrong with Lectures?
So – what is wrong with classroom lectures? After all, we’ve been using them effectively for millennia, right? Well, yes, people can indeed be taught knowledge by attending a classroom lecture. But it turns out that it is actually a very inefficient and ineffective way of teaching. Additionally, it tends to leave many students feeling confused, bored, or generally dissatisfied.

The fundamental issue begins with the fact that not all trainees are equal. Some students come to their training with a solid foundation of knowledge and experience. Others come with relatively little. Some come to the lecture as expert “students” who know how to learn, and have good note taking and study habits. Others have hardly ever been in a lecture before. Some students come to their training endowed with a natural academic ability. Others come with very little. These are only some of the many deep differences which make each student’s needed training approach … well … different.

Yet despite the diversity of students in a course, we give them all the exact same lectures. They sit in a class together, hear the same words, see the same diagrams, and have exactly the same amount of time to absorb the material. Even so, despite their vastly different learning needs, we somehow expect them all to equally flourish. That’s crazy. They clearly can’t all flourish because different students each require different amounts of time to absorb concepts, different levels of presentation to understand the material, different speed of presentation, different level of review of supporting information, different numbers of examples, etc.

Since it is impossible to teach to each student’s individual needs in one classroom, the lecturer is instead left to teach to the needs of the mythical “typical” student. Our lecture is therefore constructed so a typical student would understand it, be able to keep up, and derive value from it. But since there is no such thing as a “typical” student, we are instead presenting a lecture that tends to lose half of the class, and to bore the other half of the class.

Said another way, the “invariant” (the aspect that is the same for all) in a lecture-based course is the learning experience and the duration of the lecture. All students have the same presentation. Unfortunately, what varies are the individual outcomes – some do better, some do worse. That’s backwards. What we actually *want* is for the invariant to be the learning outcomes (we want them to be uniformly high), and the variant to be the learning experience (so that each student receives the experience that works best for them). Traditional lectures cannot achieve this, and that is why operators, as well as universities and other training institutions, are moving away from traditional lecture-based learning. The next question, then, is “what should we be moving to”? The answer might surprise you. It is a technique called the “Flipped Classroom” where we stop lecturing, and instead utilize our expert trainers in a far more productive, engaging and effective way. We will discuss the flipped classroom in the next edition of Training Tips for Ships.  Until then, start saying goodbye to your classroom lectures and safe sailing!

MarTID 2019 Report
The 2nd Annual report from the historic Maritime Training Insights Database (MarTID) survey initiative to study global maritime training practices, investment and thought is now available. The surveys draw on insights from shipowners and operators, maritime education and training institutions and seafarers.  The insightful report is available free for global distribution here.

MarTID 2020 Survey 
The third annual MarTID 2020 survey is officially open. More information is available here.

Other stories from December 2019 issue


Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.