An article in The Teaching Professor offers 10 'Worthwhile Considerations' for Improving Lectures. The suggestions are ones we are all probably familiar with, but they bear repeating just because they help recall us to a focus on what our students already know that we can use and what our students think they know that actually prevents them from learning.
The 10 considerations are as follows:
Active Student Involvement
- An interactive component helps to break up a lecture class and helps students zone out less.
- Particularly in GE classes, where many students view the class material as foreign to their lives, you need to constantly show them how, when and why this material will be of value.
- Never underestimate how hard it is to maintain interest and focus for an hour or more. Use varied strategies to keep interest. Interesting facts and details, striking examples, brief case study, short discussion--there are multiple ways to add interest to a lecture while still keeping on topic.
- Students, beings novices, process information at a rate and in a manner different from professors (experts). This is particularly true in GE courses where your students may think in radically different ways from professionals in your field. If you can connect new information to things the students already know and if you address some of the ways they typically (and erroneously) want to think of this information, you will help students absorb the new material.
- When giving information-dense lectures, stop periodically, provide a review or summary, engage in a short discussion and give the students time to encapsulate the previous info. Then situate the upcoming material and continue lecturing.
- Make sure students understand a term and occasionally prompt them to define a term that is being re-introduced.
- When students just don't "get it", try explaining in a different way or give them a chance to explain exactly what they think you mean. 10 minutes of sleuth work and re-explanation can save a lot of time later on doing damage control after a class has made a mess of an assignment, a quiz or an exam.
- Anxious students often write down everything without really listening or listening analytically. An outline or a guide may help their note-taking. You can make the outline complete or incomplete, depending on how you want to focus their listening. You can also train them in analytical note-taking.
- Try to be aware of students' initial conceptions. Often, unless these are addressed directly, they may never change.
- Don't forget to provide items (demonstrations, videos, PowerPoint, overheads) that help visual learners to function. Many of our students are visual in orientation and reception will improve if listening is supported by some visual means.
These are good reminders and I hope you find some of them as pertinent to your work as I do to mine.