Instead of the “I talk, you listen” structure of traditional lectures, mixing up the activities in a lecture course is likely to nurture deeper understanding. Bob Kegan peppers activities throughout his lectures, adding variety and dynamism into what could otherwise be a lengthy, teacher-centered lecture. In this video, Kegan suggests that university instructors think more like bike instructors: It’s not enough to just talk about your content, you must give students a chance to “get on” and try it out.
Class discussions don’t only have to take place within the four walls of the classroom. Establishing resources and platforms to continue discussions outside of class can help students extend their learning and feel more engaged with your course. In this video, Tina Grotzer discusses how she uses online discussion boards and in-person meetings to make sure all of her students get the chance to have their questions answered and feel seen as members of the class community.
Students who are mentally prepared for class and know what to expect from the day’s schedule are able to be more attentive and focused on course material. In this video, Tina Grotzer demonstrates different ways to help students feel present in the classroom and allocate their mental energy to the day’s learning.
A lecturer who acts primarily as a “sage on the stage” for an entire class session will likely struggle to gauge or sustain student attention and energy. By incorporating frequent, purposeful questioning into lectures, instructors can keep students energized and deepen their understanding. Brett Flehinger uses factual, analytical, and overarching questions during his lectures to draw out student voices and check the class’s “temperature.”
Paying close attention to what’s going on in a classroom can help determine when to delve deeper on a given topic and when to re-teach something that may have been confusing. Through keen observation and “show of hands” solicitations, Bob Kegan stays attuned to the classroom’s ebbs and flows. Regular “temperature-taking” allows him to adapt lesson trajectories accordingly and gain insight into student understanding.
Silence in the classroom can feel uncomfortable for students and instructors alike, but processing information takes time. Waiting for several seconds after asking a question so that students, particularly introverted ones, are able to gather their thoughts before responding is proven to expand participation and improve the quality of student responses. In this video, Bob Kegan and Dan Levy discuss their strategies for using wait-time in the classroom, which Levy calls “one of the most underused weapons that an instructor has at his/her disposal.”
A classic challenge for the lecturers is how to fit all relevant material into the timeframe of a short class period, not to mention a short semester. When a student makes an insightful point that would take the class in a new direction, instructors must decide: Do I go on a worthwhile tangent to address the student’s point, or do I proceed as I had planned? In this video, Brett Flehinger shares why he allows student contributions to shape the path a class takes and how he makes strategic adjustments on the fly.
While slides can be helpful for displaying class material, they also tend to be static and relatively passive. Conversely, co-constructing knowledge on the board with students can help make definitions and key concepts come alive. In this video, Paola Arlotta describes how recording students’ ideas on the board engages them in collaboratively “building the class material” and involves them more deeply in the learning process.
Giving students substantial time during class to pause, reflect on, and verbally process their understanding can help them consolidate their learning and generate new ideas. These practices can also help teaching teams stay abreast of how students’ thinking is changing. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains how and why she gives students the space and time to reflect in class.
Although the physical setup of a classroom typically points toward a lectern or podium, moving around the space intentionally can send important nonverbal signals to students. In this video, Dan Levy describes how he rarely stays “tethered to the front of the room,” especially when trying to elicit participation, stimulate debate, or encourage a particular student to venture deeper on a particular point.
It is tempting, even natural, to want to present material exactly how you like to receive it, but if you do this you may be reaching only a small cohort of students. In reality, students receive and process information in a variety of ways. Lecturers may reach more students by varying the ways they present material and offering multiple entry points for complex concepts. In this video, Bob Kegan describes the range of tactics he uses to teach students in his large-enrollment lecture course.
Instead of using class time to deliver a pre-written speech, it can be helpful to spend part of the lecture thinking aloud for your students. Exposing your own thought processes can be a powerful, authentic way to acclimate students to a discipline. Sharing experiences that helped you understand concepts more deeply can additionally offer students a window into your intellectual journey, adding a human dimension to the subject matter. In this video, Bob Kegan discusses how thinking out loud during lectures models the reasoning with which he expects his students to become fluent and...
Effective lecturers don’t just teach content; they also teach key ways of thinking about that content. When instructors hear or see a student demonstrating strong analytical skills, publicly verbalizing what that student is doing can demystify complex thinking and positively reinforce key skills. When a student draws a conclusion based on multiple pieces of evidence, Brett Flehinger purposefully spotlights what he observes. These moments propel class forward and advance his lesson.
Instead of using lectures to simply deliver information, instructors can also use them to create opportunities for students to construct new knowledge themselves. In this video, Paola Arlotta explains how she presents material to students so they first construct their own understanding of concepts, then builds on their ideas to develop more formal disciplinary knowledge and vocabulary.
Instead of viewing each class session as an independent, stand-alone component, some lecturers effectively weave together material across classes to create a coherent learning trajectory for students. As Brett Flehinger advances from topic to topic, he makes transparent for students his thinking about the specific curriculum choices. In this video, Brett describes how he uses his syllabus as an “atlas” to elucidate links between classes and concepts. He encourages his students to do the same.
Just like athletes in team practices, students can benefit enormously from a brief warm-up period at the start of class. To invigorate and prepare his students before diving into analytical conversations, Brett Flehinger frequently kicks off lectures with a flurry of factual and brainstorming questions. Once he observes that students have co-constructed some common understanding, Flehinger ups the stakes and challenges students to dig deeper into the material.
Just like assertions made in essays, comments made during class should be rooted in evidence, not instinct. To support the development of this critical skill, Brett Flehinger requires students to “secure with evidence” any statements they make. By explicitly setting and enforcing the expectation that in-class comments must be grounded in course readings, Flehinger ensures that all students practice evidence-based reasoning.
Prompting students to reflect on how the course material relates to their own lives can help them develop a deeper understanding of your subject. Particularly when students are reading large amounts of theoretical material or research findings, it can be difficult to pause and connect that work to past experiences or future plans. In this video, Tina Grotzer models how she builds in moments for her students to relate the course to their life experiences in order to deepen their understanding.
In a lecture-style course, it can be challenging to assess student understanding in real-time, and the voices of frequent participants are not always representative of the class as a whole. Just because no one asks a question, it does not mean the whole group is on the same page. To get a quick snapshot students’ understand of new material, in-class polling can be useful. In this video, Dan Levy demonstrates how he uses interactive polls to check for understanding and peer discussion to clarify misunderstandings.
Some instructors design lectures that simply telegraph answers to students. While there are certainly cases where it makes sense to deliver answers this way, a wholesale dependence on this approach will likely mute students’ drive to discover answers for themselves, resulting in a class of students who depend on you rather than on themselves to solve problems. Infusing lectures with questions that spark students toward self-discovery, however, can help to foster more productive, interactive learning spaces. Paola Arlotta uses leading and “prodding” questions to help students...