Following up on Marcus' last post, particularly his 4th tip about engaging students in active participation, as opposed to lecturing, I would like to open the floor for discussion on the merits and demerits of lecture as a teaching method.
I should say that I generally agree with Marcus that the traditional lecture (i.e., being "the sage on the stage") is not a particularly effective teaching method and that it should be used in a rather limited way.
On the other hand, however, it seems that the traditional lecture is a successful teaching method for some. For example, based on the videos available on-line, it seems that Shelly Kagan uses lecture almost exclusively in his courses.
Judging by the popularity of his courses, it seems that this method works very well for him. Of course, I am assuming that students can judge the effectiveness of teaching methods, at least as far as their own learning is concerned. Some might question this assumption, but I think that students are generally capable of making such judgments. And so, if they flock to Professor Kagan's courses, it is probably because they think that they will learn something valuable.
Another example for a successful "sage on the stage" is perhaps Michael Sandel. Again, based on the videos available online, it seems that he uses mostly lecture in his courses. [I say "mostly" because, as Marcus rightly pointed out in the comments to his last post, Professor Sandel seems to be doing an excellent job engaging students in discussion. However, I think there are several major problems with large class discussions: (a) only a few students participate, (b) Q&A type of active participation in large class format doesn't give students much time to think about their answers, (c) there is no record of the class discussion, so it may seem to some students as a waste of time. There are other problems, but the basic point is that making students active participants in the learning process requires more than engaging them in class discussion. Of course, this is not to say that there is something wrong with the way Professor Sandel teaches his classes. Obviously, he cannot have 200 students do group work in a lecture hall.]
But it seems that this method works very well for him, too, since his courses are very much in demand. So what is going on? Is it the case that the traditional lecture is not an effective teaching method? Or perhaps it is not an effective teaching method for some but not others? Are there good reasons why one should lecture?