Why One University Is Eliminating Lectures

The University of Vermont is the newest school to jump on board with the “flipped classroom.” Believe it or not—their school of medicine is eliminating the lecture, drill, memorization and test method. Over the next several years, the school will remove all lecture courses, replacing them with videos students watch on their own time. And instead of sitting through lectures, students will meet in “active learning” classrooms—led by faculty members—working with their classmates in small groups.

Why are they making this change in a medical school?

“We teach evidence-based medicine all the time,” William Jeffries, Sr. Associate Dean for medical education at UVM, said in an interview. “If you have the evidence to show one treatment is better than the other, you would naturally use that treatment. So if we know that there are methods superior to lecturing, why are we lecturing at all?”

But this change has not been easy. Can you guess why?

We like to speak. Instructors like lecturing. It’s the way we’ve always done things. I totally understand this.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room


Here’s what caught my attention. UVM acknowledged that professors actually like to lecture. They become speakers over the years and find it fulfilling. “That internal oomph or dopamine release that you get when you lecture . . . is a barrier to converting faculty over,” Jeffries said. “What we need to do is ensure they have the time and support to develop alternative ways of teaching.”

So, the college is spending time and money expanding its Teaching Academy, founded this past year. Faculty members in the College of Medicine join the academy for 3-5 year periods, where they are mentored by more experienced instructors, attend conferences and workshops and complete self-paced courses. In short, the school recognizes it will require some time and energy to change its ways.

Jeffries states: “The overarching goal of the academy is to help faculty members discover teaching methods that can be as rewarding—if not more so—than lecturing.”

What I Love Most About This Change

The key shift for teachers and their administrators is to help each other to draw their fulfillment from something other than lecturing.

I remember, as a young leader, when I first started leading teams of people. I loved the art of getting things done and seeing results. I also remember, however, when I learned to transfer where I received my fulfillment—from doing the projects to developing the people. I eventually found it more rewarding to grow people and celebrate their achievement than to do it myself. I had to learn to draw my satisfaction from a new place. I had to mature, as a leader.

This is the same path today’s educator must take.

As a teacher, I also remember shifting my fulfillment from “lecturing” to “facilitating” discoveries on the part of my students. It’s a different mindset, but it’s worth the switch. Teachers must begin to draw their fulfillment from inspiring metacognition in students—seeing them reflect on what they’re doing and own their learning. It’s less about “me” delivering and more about “them” discovering. It’s tough because . . .

  • It’s a slower pace.
  • It’s easier to lecture.
  • It requires more creativity and planning.
  • It’s less about my talent and more about the students absorbing the content.

My Challenge for You: Become a Guide

My challenge for you is simple. Whether you’re an educator, parent, coach or youth worker, what if you examined the data and pursued what was most effective? Then, if a change is in order, remind yourself of what you are at heart— you’re a guide. You want young adults to learn, to grow and to become the best version of themselves.

“The most powerful tool the med school has to win faculty members over is that they are ‘scientists at heart’ and ‘understand the evidence,’” Jeffries said. “In short, students in flipped classrooms perform better than students in lecture courses.”

According to Inside Higher Ed journalist Carl Straunsheim, “At Touro, for example, the pass rate on an important licensing exam has climbed to above 95 percent— higher than the national average—since the college flipped its curriculum.”

So here’s my question. From where do you draw your fulfillment?

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Why One University Is Eliminating Lectures