Is lecturing an outmoded form of instruction that you should avoid at all costs? Not at all. As “active learning” becomes the norm in college classrooms, many faculty who believe in the importance of using in-class activities to engage students with course content may hesitate to admit that they actually sometimes…lecture.
While concerns about lecturing as a mode of instruction are well-known (students are passive; their attention tends to wane as the lecture proceeds; you can’t be sure they’ve understood what you lectured about), these challenges can be overcome. As Davis (2009) notes, “lecturing is not simply a matter of standing in front of a class and reciting what you know.”
Here are a few strategies you can use to make your lectures more active:
- Break up the lecture into shorter segments, with brief activities in between. For example, in a science lecture, after explaining a concept or problem-solving strategy, use a clicker question to check students’ understanding.
- Help students take notes during class by providing a skeletal outline for them to fill in during lecture. For example, you can offer students an edited version of your slide presentation, with key information missing; or you can pause for a minute or two during your lecture to give students a chance to compare notes with their neighbors.
- Include a brief activity at the beginning of a lecture to activate students’ prior knowledge, or at the end of lecture to help them summarize what they’ve learned.
Interested in learning more about actively engaging your students in a lecture class? Consider registering in the Large Class Course Development Institute, meeting in the week of July 31-August 4. Or contact the CITL for a consultation.
Davis. B.G. (2009). Tools for teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 148.
Major, C.H., Harris, M.S., & Zakrajsek, T. (2016) The lecture method. In Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Educational Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success. New York: Routledge, p. 1-42.
Zakrajsek, T. (2017) Dynamic lecturing. Episode 159 in the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast series.