A few years ago I was observed in my college course. I was teaching an intermediate algebra class. My class was totally teacher dominated. I asked which homework problems needed to be gone over, listed them on the board and proceeded to go over them slowly, one at a time. I did not let the students write them out on the board and I did all the explanations myself. The evening supervisor who was in the room at the time loved the lesson. The students in the class understood all that had been gone over. My passing rate for the term was well above the average passing rate for that course.
Chalk and talk is a dirty expression in the high schools. Kids are supposed to sit in groups and discover answers themselves. They are supposed to explain the work to each other. I have found that this does not work. Often the work they put on the board is wrong. Kids cross out their correct answers to copy what someone else has done. After all, if it is on the board, it must be correct. Even when the work is correct, it is often illegible. And, some of my brightest students speak with thick accents and in very low voices, making it impossible for others to understand. I work with a population of students whose native language is often not English and accents make learning hard for them. My weakest students need everything written out for them. Group work does have a place, just not in the classroom.
I was not one of the best math students in high school. I just loved math. I worked hard and studied all the time. I redid every problem done in class until I understood the methods completely. I learned from following my teacher's models. Most of my students need to learn the same way. I always give extra problems that encourage the brightest to go beyond what I have showed them to find solutions. Many take what I have given them and reach beyond my wildest expectations. I know they are not losing out because of chalk and talk. I know that I am helping the weak ones by giving them concrete work they can practice with.
This whole idea of chalk and talk being bad came about when some politicians decided that everyone was capable of learning the same caliber of work. When so many failed, an excuse was needed. Chalk and talk was just that excuse. I predict, in a few years, we will return to the chalk and talk method as the only method that works. Do I agree with that? Absolutely not. In a classroom, many different methods are needed. We shouldn't dismiss group work or active student involvement then and we should not dismiss chalk and talk now.