Monday, April 20, 2009

Weir on the art of lecturing

Following on his "10 Commandments of Lecturing," Rob Weir has a new piece in Inside Higher Ed on how to craft effective lectures. Again, there's lots of good advice about lecturing here.

  • Have a small number of clear objectives that you return to throughout the lecture. Don't try too much or try to pack in too much detail!
  • Remember communication basics: eye contact, varying your tempo, have good notes to rely on.
  • Start with a hook.
  • Use a small number of well-chosen examples.
  • Restate the main ideas at the end.
I'd only add two suggestions to his: First, use your chalkboard, whiteboard, whatever you have by way of visuals, but don't let them be the lecture. We've talked a lot here at ISW about PowerPoint, etc. and how students take notes and interact with visual material. I think it's important to remember that the visuals are supposed to help the lecture along, not be a word-for-word reconstruction of the lecture.

Second -- and I'm a strong advocate on this point -- I have doubts that students are well prepared to learn from lectures at the college level. So one technique I often use is to lecture in a traditional way, but then arrange for an exercise that enables students to reinforce their understanding of the lecture while also serving to troubleshoot my performance. This can take the form of a small group exercise where students develop questions based on the lecture, a 'minute paper' exercise, etc. Lectures are important because they are a content-rich way of delivering material, but they are very instructor-centered, which makes it all the more important that we instructors know which material we successfully conveyed and that students have the opportunity to engage lecture material in their own terms.

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