Lecture Based Classes

Climate Setting

  • Climate Setting: regulate the physical and mental climate. A large portion of teaching effectiveness involves setting the stage. The task of getting everyone comfortable enough to learn comes with the territory. Solve comfort issues first and the learning path is smoother. Research shows that successful teachers spend 10% of classroom time optimizing the arrangement of the physical setting as well as the psychological setting-a climate of collaboration, support, openness, pleasure, and humanity:

  • Meet the Learner’s Needs for Physical Comfort and Accessibility: Insure a comfortable environment where basic needs for all learners are met: lighting, heat, seating, quiet, etc.

  • Define Negotiable and Non-negotiable Areas: Clearly specify those aspects of class performance that are the instructor’s responsibility, such as essential procedures, external constraints, performance requirements (such as attendance, assignments), and summative evaluation – and those parts of the course that have mutual and negotiable responsibility (such as seating arrangements, breaks, groupings).

  • Clarify the Instructor’s Role: Impart the explicit assumption that the teacher is here to facilitate learning by providing resources, tasks, and support. The teacher is not the fount of all knowledge. The teacher trusts the learners to want to learn and therefore will take responsibility for their own learning. Students answer the question, “In order to make this learning opportunity the best for me, what would I like to see the instructor do?” The task is to achieve consensus on what role the instructor will take.

  • Clarify the Learner’s Role as Members of a Learning Community: Clarify expectations the learners have for the instructor and expectations they have for establishing constructive relationships with each other. Students answer the question, “In order to make this learning opportunity best for me, what would I like to see my classmates do?” The class arrives at consensus on what obligations and responsibilities are expected by others.

Lecture Practices

Research on attention span suggests that adult learners can keep focused on a lecture no more than 15 or 20 minutes when they are fresh. We should considering designing some sort of change-of-pace activity to break classes where student loss of attention is likely to break their retention anyway. The next section suggests ways that we can do these types of activities painlessly.

  • Take a moment to remember the characteristics of some of the worst lectures that you had as a student and don’t do them. These might include:

    • Presenting in a monotone voice

    • Reading from the text or taking material straight from the assigned text only

    • 50 minutes of non-stop lecturing

    • Little or no eye contact with audience

    • Outdated or incorrect information presented

    • Disjointed and confusing lecture.

Pre-Planning: Enhancing Effectiveness of Lectures

  • Structure lecture carefully, provide a solid framework into which student can fit new knowledge, show framework to students. Before class begins, write key words/concepts/names/dates (whatever is appropriate) on the board or prepare a transparency in advance to facilitate note taking.

  • Signposts can provide student with clear signals to help them appreciate direction, links, and points of separation between parts of content. Make explicit links between present and past or future lectures. For complex subjects or topics unavailable to the students in textbooks or other sources, distribute an outline and go through it on a transparency while you lecture.

  • State educational intent at the beginning (in terms of objectives/learning outcomes) so students know what you expect them to achieve. Before beginning the lecture, tell the students how the session will be organized. A BRIEF outline on the board or overhead at the beginning of class is an excellent means of helping students gear their thoughts to the topic for the day.

  • Do not overload students with content, students learn more when information density is not too high.

  • Provide summaries of main points at end of sections and end of session.

  • Change demands on students every 10-15 minutes to ensure attention.

  • Avoid non-stop lecturing: divide your lectures into short segments.

  • Try to be enthusiastic and expressive when lecturing.

  • Provide students with opportunities to apply new materials as soon as possible. Give students practice in remembering lecture material by asking questions from time to time or providing quizzes at the end of the lecture.

  • Help students take good notes – concept maps, spray diagrams, mind maps. Allow students to check notes against those of other student.

  • Avoid continuous note-taking by allotting special times for taking notes, providing lecture handouts, and so forth.

  • Try to provide hints or “cues” during the course of the lecture that students may use to remember important points.

  • Tell students when they have responded correctly. If you ignore student responses you will tend to extinguish them altogether.

  • Visual aids help a great deal. Try to mix up videos, graphics, and even guest lecturers. Provide handouts of diagrams which would be difficult for students to copy in their notes. Use examples and images when explaining concepts and principles.

  • At the end of the class, summarize the important points which were covered during the lecture and give the students some idea of what to look forward to for the next time. Provide summaries of main points at end of sections and end of sessions

  • Provide an outline of the lectures in your Canvas course site and have the students print out their own copies to bring to class. Leave blank areas where they can fill in material that you provide in your lectures.

Enhanced Lecture: Activities to interject active learning events

  • ENHANCED LECTURE: a series of short, mini-lectures punctuated by specific active learning events designed to meet the class objectives. At times information must be transmitted orally to a passive listening audience. But research has shown that after 10 to 20 minutes of continuous lecture, assimilation falls off rapidly. If the teacher must rely on the oral presentation of material, these techniques enhance learner retention..Think about using one or more of these active learning strategies in your lectures.


  • Lecture/Rhetorical Questioning:

    • Talk in 7 to 10 minute segments, pause, ask pre-planned rhetorical questions; learners record their answers in their notes.

  • Surveys with Exemplifier:

    • Pause, ask directly for a show of hands: ‘Raise your hand if you agree… disagree… etc.’ or ‘Raise your hand if you have encountered an example of that.’ Ask for a volunteer to speak for the response group whose hands are raised.

  • Think-Pair-Share:

    • A widely used technique in which two students discuss a given question for two or three minutes, then share their results in a large class discussion. Turn To Your Partner And Pause, ask each to turn to the person next to them and share examples of the point just made or complete a given phrase or sentence.

  • Halting Time (4):

    • Present complex material or directions and then stop so learners have time to think or carry out directions. Visually check to see whether the class appears to understand. If they do, continue.

  • Pause Procedure:

    • Stop the lecture every 15-20 minutes and let student compare notes. Students generally discover something new in the other person’s notes.

  • Explication de Texte:

    • By reading and analyzing passages from the text aloud, learners can see higher-order thinking skills and that ‘criticism’ is a participatory intellectual exercise.

  • Guided Lecture:

    • Students listen to 15-20 minutes of lecture without taking notes. At the end, they spend five minutes recording all they can recall. The next step involves learners in small discussion groups reconstructing the lecture conceptually with supporting data, preparing complete lecture notes, using the instructor to resolve questions that arise.

  • Immediate Mastery Quiz:

    • When a regular immediate mastery test is included in the last few minutes of the period, learners retain almost twice as much material, both factual and conceptual.

  • Storytelling:

    • Stories, metaphor, and myth catch people deeply within, so no longer are listeners functioning as tape recorders subject to the above information overload limits. What human beings have in common is revealed in myth; stories allow the listener to seek an experience of being alive in them and find clues to answers within themselves. The 10 to 20 minute limit no longer applies.

  • Short Writes:

    • One- to three-minute writing assignments focusing on a question, such as, “What was the main idea presented in this portion of the lecture?” Or “What questions remained unanswered?”

  • Formative Quizzes:

    • Ungraded questions used to gauge student comprehension. Instructors can ask students to use thumbs-up/thumbs-down hand signals to indicate if they agree or disagree with a statement. Instructors can also poll students with multiple-choice questions asking for a show of hands as each option is stated.

  • Topic Synthesis:

    • Students, rather than instructors, summarize the key points of the previous portion of the lecture.

  • Focused Listing:

    • Ask students to create a list in response to a specific question (e.g., list the advantages of both the North and the South going into the Civil War).

  • Outline:

    • Provide students with an empty or partially filled outline and ask them to fill in the blanks in a limited time.