Lectures and Lecturing

Try Something ...

Try some interaction


General Tips on interactions

There are a few basic rules for successful interactions in lectures. Always make it clear:

  • what the purpose of the activity is and how it relates to the rest of the lecture
  • what signal you will use to end the activity (eg clapping hands, flashing the lights, bell, alarm clock, playing the trumpet, whatever appeals to you...)
  • EXACTLY what you are asking them to do. Review the instructions beforehand for ambiguity - it's a good idea to ask a colleague if they are clear enough

And always praise the participation itself, even if the answer is wrong. Of course you need to correct the answer, but do it sensitively:

"Thanks for being brave enough to contribute. That's an interesting response. I can see why you might have thought that, but actually..."

Usually you will just need to get a few sample responses to any questions or activities you have set. Don't just make a general request to the room, but don't pick on an individual either. Ask "someone from the top right" or "one of that lively group in the left hand corner" to answer. Go over to that area of the room if you need to persuade them to reply.

You don't need to ask everyone to feed back for every activity. Over the lecture programme, try to ask each part of the room (students often sit in more or less the same places each week). Emphasise that getting some feedback from the group is just to get sample responses and that the real benefit for them is in the actual activity.

The best reflections will come if students have an opportunity to bounce ideas off each other before having to contribute to the whole group. The lecture theatre is often characterised by fixed seating and that can make it difficult for conversations to develop. It will be difficult for students to work together other than in pairs (or groups of three, at a pinch).

If you find it difficult to get participation going, don't despair. The students need to get used to it, too. Reiterate the relevance of the activity to the learning outcomes of the unit, and refer to research showing that this kind of participation helps with learning (see The Basics). Keep trying, a little at a time.

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