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.
Robert Kegan, William and Miriam Meehan Research Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Spring 2016, ~200 students
- Vary the traditional lecture format with student presentations, role plays, debates, or case discussions when appropriate
- Add activities purposefully. Just like you need to practice pedaling in order to learn how to ride a bike, ask yourself, “What types of thinking, speaking, and writing do my students need to practice in this class to achieve my larger learning objectives?”
- Pause your lecture after making a major point and invite students to turn to a neighbor to discuss or to reflect for a few minutes in writing
- Center an engaging activity around a learning-oriented task. Alter the structure of the lesson by having students interpret data, tie ideas together, or apply their learning to a new context.
- Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Learning and Teaching recommends “Twenty Ways to Make Lectures More Participatory”
- Carleton College provides a guide for “How to Give Interactive Lectures”
- In “Quick Critical Writing,” a professor shares a “quick write” technique he uses to inject more participation in the traditional lecture