12 Ways to Ensure an Effective LectureBy Susan Fitzell
Very few students get excited about a lecture. Even the best teachers have a hard time holding the attention of their students when the class consists solely of lecture. In most cases, students simply learn better when they have a chance to talk to each other, work together to solve problems, and take an active part in their own learning. But that doesn’t mean never lecture – just lecture smartly.
Think about it: there are no professions that involve simply sitting and listening, but the ability to solve problems, work as part of a team and communicate effectively is essential to any job.
In the study Collaborative Learning vs. Lecture/Discussion, published in the Journal for Engineering Education, students in a collaborative learning environment reported that they spent more time working together, learning from each other, and actually applying the concepts they’d learned… and, at the end of the year, the students in the collaborative classes reported (on average) more progress than the students in the lecture classes.
Consider the following ideas to help you make your lectures more interactive, interesting, and hands-on.
- Whenever possible, use lecture primarily for mini-lessons. Short is sweet.
- Include material that is not in the textbook. Textbook recitations don’t excite! Effective lectures present material that can’t simply be read from the book. Use the book as a jumping off point, not a lesson plan.
- Mix it up. Keep your style dynamic, not static. Make good eye contact, establish a relationship with the audience and vary the ways you engage with students.
- Use group work as a part of the lecture. Pause for a few minutes at two or three points in the lecture and ask students to discuss what they’ve learned amongst themselves. This will help with reinforcement and give students time to catch up and consolidate their notes. It also gives you time to assess the class, ask questions of individuals and listen to your students.
- Show enthusiasm for the subject. If you don’t seem to care about the material your students won’t care either.
- Quality, not quantity. Don’t overwhelm your students with new information. Studies show that the more new material there is in a lecture, the less information students actually retain from the lecture. Assign readings, use online discussion boards, and direct students to pertinent articles on the Web in addition to shorter lectures.
- Generate curiosity about the lecture material early in the lecture. Introduce new ideas and push students to develop their own perspectives.
- Keep it organized and don’t veer off course. Start with a brief outline of what you want to talk about, then use “signposts” to keep your students on track (For example: “Now I want to talk about…,” “That’s the end of our discussion of…”).
- Check in with your students – not just at the end of the lecture but throughout the class. Summarize each part of your lecture, then check for questions and direct some questions to the class to gauge understanding. Always encourage active discussion, but avoid tangents to keep your lecture moving forward.
- Use the “rule of threes.” People simply like information presented in threes – beginning, middle, and end. A typical student’s concentration starts to wane after 10-12 minutes, so chunking information during longer lessons allows students to process more effectively.
- Don’t over-rely on technology. Use PowerPoint slides and the internet to support discussion with visuals and main points.
- Always integrate collaborative learning with lecture. A lecture should never be just a teacher standing in front of the class talking “at” students.
About the author
Susan Fitzell is a nationally recognized speaker and author of several educational resource books. She has over two decades of experience with differentiated instruction, teaching youth with special needs, students with behavioral and anger management issues, and students who experience bullying.
Susan’s company, AIMHI Educational Programs, focuses on building caring school communities. aimhieducational.com