Lecturing with Style

"Lectures can not carry the major responsibility for conveying information, readings should do that."

When to use lecture vs. other strategies

There are three main reasons to use the lecture format:

  • to transmit information,
  • to create interest (and to motivate students),
  • to promote understanding (affect).

Lectures are preferred when:

  • the background information is not available or accessible to the students
  • the facts or problems are conflicting or confusing in nature
  • the experience of speaker will contribute to clarification of the issues
  • time is of the essence
  • a change of pace is needed
  • the best way to understand a topic is through oral presentation

To determine if you need to lecture vs. another instructional strategy, consider:

What are you trying to do?
  • Expedient transmission of facts? The lecture format is good , but delays feedback.
  • Discussion allows feedback and the checking of knowledge, but the rate of transmission is slow.
  • Lecture/demonstration is superior in tests of specific information.
  • Discussion is superior on measures of problem-solving and scientific methods.
  • Mini-lectures (5-15 minutes) can be used to establish context or a setting for role playing.

The Best Lectures:

  • impart new information,
  • explain, clarify, and organize difficult concepts,
  • model a creative mind at work or the problem-solving process,
  • analyze and show relationships among seemingly dissimilar ideas,
  • inspire a reverence for learning,
  • challenge beliefs and habits of thinking,
  • breed enthusiasm and motivation for further study.

Disadvantages of the lecture method:

  • In its purest form , it is a passive method of learning.
  • Usually doesn't allow the opportunity for students to ask questions.
  • Attempts to transfer the same content at the same pace. How can students distinguish what is most important?
  • Provides one teacher's interpretation of the subject matter.

Advantages of the lecture method:

  • It's good to introduce a new subject or focus on a content area
  • Can be used to put the subject into its context.
  • Can present material that is not yet available in print or books.
  • Is efficient (in transmission, not necessarily learning)

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Building a lecture that really works

  • Focus on a single topic--know what your objectives for the lecture are. What three to five things do you want your students to come away from the lecture with?
  • Synchronize slides (and images) to go with your verbal presentation. Select graphics that represent the ideas, concepts or words.
  • Know your lecture style and what you're comfortable with.

Different ways to organize lectures

  • Classical-typical outline format (works well when you want to transmit information)
  • Problem-centered-problem posed (offer solutions with advantages and disadvantages) (works best to create an interest in the content)
  • Sequential-extended argument or chain of reasoning that leads to a conclusion (works well to promote understanding of a subject)
  • Comparative-comparison
  • Thesis-argument or assertion made and justified

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Teaching Lecture Tips

  • Put a brief outline of the lecture on the blackboard or overhead transparency before you begin.
  • Use examples to allow students to think about other examples that may be relevant to their experience.
  • Look at the class.
  • Speak loud enough for the entire class to hear.
  • Vary your tone of voice.
  • Be enthusiastic!
  • Start with a problem and interweave evidence and examples to lead to a conclusion.
  • Be organized!
  • Speak loudly and clearly, change tone, use pauses. Don't be afraid of a few seconds of silence.
  • Explain, recap, repeat and summarize main points and relate main points to current examples and applications.
  • Invite questions and ask questions. Encourage participation, involve the group.
  • Don't try to cover everything or give too much factual information.
  • Keep track of the time and pace your material
  • Don't talk when you're writing or facing away from your audience.
  • Don't read your notes.
  • Stress key words and pause for emphasis.
  • Notice your non-verbal behavior as well.

The Nuts and Bolts

  • Outline a clear purpose and objectives for the lecture: Write them down and mention them!
  • Attract attention relay an anecdote, pose a dilemma, ask a question, relate a humorous experience, refer to a context-related quote, introduce contradictory facts or opinions.
  • Establish any ground rules: are questions in the middle okay, or should students wait until the end?
  • Include a structure. Cover 3-5 concepts or ideas, provide advance organizers (relay what is coming and why it might be important), provide students with an agenda. Structure the lecture so that it flows from one point to another (opening, body [content], closing).
  • Summarize and highlight the main points.
  • Conclude with the key points and relate to the future--what should students do with the information from today?

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