A big part of that has to be getting them to a point where they are good readers. That means being actual baseline good readers who are able to identify key themes, sympathetically state the author’s argument in their own words, talk about what each section of the book is supposed to be contributing to the whole, and so on — that kind of thing is the necessary foundation for the “critical reading” stage.
I think that the assumption that students have baseline reading skills is behind the thinking of people who want more or less exclusively discussion-based classes — lectures, they suppose, are just trying to transmit information, which the books can do by themselves. If we assume that the students are reading attentively outside of class, we can use the class time to practice our critical reading with each other. I don’t think it’s at all clear, however, that students typically come to college with the skills necessary to make such a model work. Some will, but it’s much safer to assume that your students need help. And I believe that we should interpret students’ desire for more lectures precisely as a cry for help.
Kotsko's suggestion is that lecture can serve to develop these reading skills, and indeed, has significant advantages over other instructional modes:
Lectures can play a significant role in getting students to that next level if they’re used not primarily to transmit information, but to guide students in their reading and in certain modes of thinking. Lectures have significant advantages over written texts — including the ability to use the full range of tone and pacing that an improvised oral delivery allows, as well as the ability to check in periodically to make sure students are still “on board” and change the presentation if necessary — and those advantages should be mobilized in a way that feeds into the reading process itself. A simple example is telling students what they should be looking for in their readings and giving them an outline of the basic argument ahead of time (my own students have requested as much). This will give them more confidence going in and give them a way of seeing what it looks like for themes to emerge or arguments to be strung together. After a few classes worth of that kind of directed reading, perhaps they’ll be ready to begin drawing out themes and arguments themselves. Again, these skills are not something we should be taking for granted!
Kotsko doesn't quite put it this way, but his thought is that lecturing is a form of modelling. We philosophers can reconstruct and represent our own forms of thinking and inquiring, which, after all, is what we want our students to ultimately develop. The hope is that once these forms of thinking and inquiring take root, students can then tackle course content on their own and will be ready to participate meaningfully in critical discussions that presuppose at least modest mastery of that content.
A final comment: Kotsko also reminds us that while lecturing can be criticized for being too passive to instill deep or genuine learning, lecturing is only as 'passive' as the lecturer. Yes, delivering information in a droning, unenthusiastic way is misguided. But if we approach lecture autobiographically, as a way of having students rehearse philosophical inquiry with us — and we do this with energy — it can be as intensive and intellectually active as any other teaching method.
ISW'ers: How do we make lecture something more than just the passive dissemination of information? And in particular, how do we use it to foster the skills requisite for discussion?