The noun "lecture" dates from 14th century, meaning "action of reading, that which is read," from the Latin lectus, pp. of legere "to read." Its subsequent meaning as "a discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction" is from the 16th century. The verb "to lecture" is attested from 1590. The noun "lectern" refers to the reading desk used by lecturers. In British English and several other languages the noun "lecture" must grammatically be the object of the verb "to read."
- Date: 14th century
- 1 : a discourse given before an audience or class especially for instruction
- 2 : a formal reproof
A lecture is an oral presentation intended to present information or teach people about a particular subject, for example by a university or college teacher. Lectures are used to convey critical information, history, background, theories and equations. A politician's speech, a minister's sermon, or even a businessman's sales presentation may be similar in form to a lecture. Usually the lecturer will stand at the front of the room and recite information relevant to the lecture's content.
Though lectures are much criticized as a pedagogical method, universities have not yet found practical alternative teaching methods for the large majority of their courses. Critics point out that lecturing is mainly a one-way method of communication that does not involve significant audience participation. Therefore, lecturing is often contrasted to active learning. Lectures delivered by talented speakers can be highly stimulating; at the very least, lectures have survived in academia as a quick, cheap and efficient way of introducing large numbers of students to a particular field of study.
Lectures have a significant role outside the classroom, as well. Academic and scientific awards routinely include a lecture as part of the honor, and academic conferences often center around "keynote addresses", i.e., lectures. The public lecture has a long history in the sciences and in social movements. Union halls, for instance, historically have hosted numerous free and public lectures on a wide variety of matters. Similarly, churches, community centers, libraries, museums, and other organizations have hosted lectures in furtherance of their missions or their constituents' interests.