February 22, 2023

Better Lectures by Jennifer Gonzalez on CultOfPedagogy.com

Overuse and poor execution led to wave to reduce lecturing, so how do you make it worthwhile when it’s your best/only choice?

Only lecture when there isn’t a better way of expressing that info, it keeps it from becoming a drag because it’s the only option ever picked

Lecture imparts knowledge,” Blake Harvard writes. “Knowledge is a requirement for innovation and creativity. Simply put, you cannot be creative with knowledge you do not have. This is why, when initially presenting information to students, I try to do so in as simple a method as possible. Creating an environment with as few distractions as possible decreases the extraneous load on our limited working memory and allows for the possible processing of more material.”

The University of Tennessee advises that lecture is a good fit when:

  • The background information is not available or accessible to students
  • The content may be confusing (and therefore need explanation)
  • The teacher’s expertise will help make the material more clear
  • The material needs to be delivered quickly

So what do you do to make lectures better?

  1. Give it a structure
    1. Material is more easily understood when presented in a structure we understand
    2. Like, compare/contrast, cause and effect, problem/solution, definition or description, and sequence
    3. Give an introduction that lays out a roadmap
    4. Provide an “anticipatory set” to get learners excited about what’s to come
  2. Keep it brief
    1. Limit talking to stretches of a few minutes at a time (ideally 5-10) minutes
  3. Get them to participate
    1. Provide opportunities to share (through things like polls) and ways to measure understanding
    2. Frequent breaks help with prior point
  4. Use visuals
    1. “People just learn better when words are combined with images; this is the theory of dual coding, and it’s supported by decades of research (Cuevas, 2016).”
    2. Images should show relationships between concepts (Kuleshov)
    3. Introducing pieces of a complex graphic piece by piece helps build understanding
  5. Use examples
    1. Talk about “crunchy” details
    2. Examples (and lots of them) help us to build a mental model of the concept
  6. Use analogies
    1. Analogies can expand our understanding by exploring concept bounds
  7. Tell stories
    1. We like stories, find ways to tell them
    2. “Listening to stories activates parts of the brain that are unresponsive when taking in non-narrative content (Weldon, 2014)”
  8. Think out loud
    1. Verbalize thoughts in order to demonstrate how to put those thoughts together
    2. Especially useful for processes
    3. Allows for identification with the learner (Isn’t this confusing?)
  9. Make it dynamic
    1. Mix things up, add tension and humor, vary pacing
  10. Move it to the end
    1. Instead of leading with teaching the content, allow the learner to handle the concept a bit before lecturing
    2. Good for measuring before and after, stimulating curiosity, and giving context