Great large lectures

Student looking engagedLectures are good for creating a passion for a topic, sharing how experts in a discipline think, and supporting interaction. All this is achievable in large lectures.

  • Communicate your interest in the topic. If you are not excited about the topic, why should students be?
  • Think of what makes learning the lecture content worthwhile for students and share it with them. Using concrete examples helps students see the connections.
  • Consider starting a lecture with something that captures the students' interest - how the lecture content relates to current affairs, or show a video clip and relate the topic to the footage.
  • Try to make connections on a personal level. Try greeting students as they arrive, remembering the names of as many students as possible and speaking about your thinking - what you like about the topic, or how do you think through a problem.
  • Highlighting key 5 points to students during the lecture. Clearly emphasising them throughout helps students to structure their lecture experience.
  • Consider introducing at least one interactive task in each lecture, where students talk to each other about the topic.
  • Consider using different teaching activities to increase engagement by introducing real life examples, videos, interesting/fun stories, discussion, or quizzes where appropriate.People can only concentrate for 15-20 minutes at a time. Varying the learning mode helps students to re-focus and engage with the subject.

Why

People learn best when they can see, hear, say, and do. Providing an opportunity for students to engage with the subject by talking and doing will both enhance their learning and help them focus on the lecture.

People can only process 5 new concepts/terms/ideas at any one time. If more than five are introduced, the older ones will be dropped.

Everyone learns better when they feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging. This is not automatic in large lectures.

Examples

  • Structuring lecture into max. 20 minute blocks can be done by changing the delivery mode from Powerpoint to document camera, asking students to discuss a question in pairs, asking a direct question from the class, showing pictures/video relating to the topic, or highlighting changing of a topic by changing the background colour on the slides.
  • Interactive tasks are possible in large rooms when groups are kept small and tasks simple.
  • Keeping cognitive load reasonable, consider if the lecture will focus on introducing new key terms, theories or facts.
  • Simultaneous reporting through a show of hands, coloured cards, or even clickers provides immediate feedback and discussion points for students.
  • Asking students to nominate questions they hope would be answered in the lecture creates a more captive audience. The questions can be collected through a Blackboard discussion board, or with a ballot box in the lecture room/outside lecturer?s office. Asking pairs or small groups of students to nominate a question together further increases interaction.

Further resources