Liven Up Your Lectures

Decorative: A word cloud on the them of lectures


"6 Tips to Liven Up Your Lecture" (online article) offers practical suggestions for structuring lecture time through content choice, "chunking," and specific active-engagement strategies.

  • "An effective lecture is the result of planning and making a series of choices - and it need not be boring." 

1. "Don't Cover It All"

  • "Base your lecture on the most important material in the reading assignment, a topic from the reading that students are likely to find difficult, or material that doesn't appear in the text."
  • "Explain to students that you won't repeat much of the material in the assigned readings."
  • "[T]heir job is to read carefully and critically, identifying and bringing questions about the readings to class."

2. "Make Choices"

  • "[P]resent no more than three or four major issues, with time for examples and questions."
  • "Determine the critical message of your lecture and then remove the adornments." 
  • "Present the bare bones in a succinct story."

3. Present in Small Chunks

  • "Break up your lectures so that they are presented in 20-minute chunks."
  • "Research shows that students remember the first and the last ten minutes of lecture, but little of the intervening time."
  • "Switch gears after each 20-minute mini-lecture and do something different: Pose a discussion question, a short in-class writing assignment, small group discussion, or problem-solving activity."

4. Encourage Active Processing

  • "Learning is a constructive process ... Only by working with information do we learn it."
  • "Students must think about the material, make connections, relate new knowledge to what is already known, and apply knowledge to new situations."
  • "[F]orc[e] students to manipulate the material to solve problems, answer questions, examine cases, discuss, explain, debate, brainstorm, and formulate questions of their own." 

5. Pose Reflective Questions

  • "[A]sk ... questions ... that require students to think."
  • "For example, 'What would you do in this particular situation? How would you approach solving this problem?'"
  • "Reflective questions are difficult and will require time to think, so be prepared to wait for an answer (likely at least 30 seconds). Endure the silence."

6. Get Them Writing

  • "[A]sk students to write about the question first for 3 to 5 minutes, then solicit their responses."
  • "[S]tudents ... will have time to think through their response and feel more comfortable discussing their views without fear of forgetting their point."
  • "Asking students to work with the course content and determine how it fits with their experiences enables them to learn in their own way, making the material personally meaningful, which is at the heart of active learning."
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