Lecturing is a necessary evil at the university level. The university system was founded during a time when lecturing was the only way to share information. Originally, owning books was nearly impossible due to their price, there was no internet or computer, and there were few options for reviewing material. For these reasons, lecturing was the go to approach for centuries.
With all the advantages in technology, the world has changed but lecturing has not. This has led to students becoming disengaged in the learning experience with the emphasis on lecture style teaching.
This post will look at times when lecturing is necessary as well as ways to improve the lecturing experience.
Times to Lecture
Despite the criticism given earlier, there are times when lecturing is an appropriate strategy. Below are some examples.
- When there is a need to cover a large amount of content-If you need to get through a lot of material quickly and don’t have time for discussion.
- Complex concepts/instructions-You probably do not want to use discovery learning to cover lab safety policies
- New material-The first time through they may need to listen. When the topic is addressed later a different form of instruction should be employed
The point here is not to say that lecturing is bad but rather that it is overly relied upon by the typical college lecturer. Below are ways to improve lecturing when it is necessary.
Prepare Own Materials
With all the tools on the internet from videos to textbook supplied PowerPoint slides. It is tempting to just use these materials as they are and teach. However, preparing your own materials allows you to bring yourself and your personality into the teaching experience.
You can add anecdotes to illustrate various concepts, bring in additional resources, are leave information that you do not think is pertinent. Furthermore, by preparing your own material you know inside and out where you are going and when. This can also help to organize your thinking on a topic due to the highly structured nature of PowerPoint slides.
Even modifying others materials can provide some benefit. By owning your own material it allows you to focus less on what someone else said and more on what you want to say with your own materials that you are using.
Focus on the Presentation
If many teachers listen to themselves lecturing, they might be convinced that they are boring. When presenting a lecture a teacher should make sure to try to share the content extemporaneously. There should be a sense of energy and direction to the content. The students need to be convinced that you have something to say.
There is even a component of body language to this. A teacher needs to walk into a room like they “own the place” and speak accordingly. This means standing up straight, shoulders back with a strong voice that changes speed. These are all examples of having a commanding stage presence. Make it clear you are the leader through your behavior. Who wants to listen to someone who lacks self-confidence and mumbles?
Read the Audience
If all you do is have confidence and run through your PowerPoint like nobody exists there will be little improvement for the students. A good speaker must read the audience and respond accordingly. If, despite all your efforts to prepare an interesting talk on a subject, the students are on their phones or even unconscience there is no point continuing but to do some sort of diversionary activity to get people refocus. Some examples of diversionary tactics include the following.
- Have the students discuss something about the lecture for a moment
- Have the students solve a problem of some sort related to the material
- Have the students move. Instead of talking with someone next to them they have to find someone from a different part of the lecture room. A bit of movement is all it takes to regain conscientiousness.
The lecture should be dynamic which means that it changes in nature at times. Breaking up the content into 10 minutes periods followed by some sort of activity can really prevent fatigue in the listeners.
Lecturing is a classic skill that can still be used in the 21st century. However, given that times have changed it is necessary to make some adjustments to how a teacher approaches lecturing.