Lectures are often viewed as the central educational method. Indeed, despite the many criticisms of them, the remain a central part of adult education, and are often a student expectation. They are a form of mass instruction, delivering information to students, or demonstrating a skill. As with most educational methods, the lecture has both positive and negative aspects. There are also many factors which can make a lecture better or worse as an educational method.
To give an overview of a topic, including learning outcomes.
Can introduce basic concepts and facts, which can be developed later.
A cost effective method of delivery of information to many students.
Can motivate students when delivered enthusiastically.
Adds the benefit of spoken language over written text e.g emphasis, body language, tone of voice.
A passive activity which may not encourage learning beyond the level of memorisation.
Doesn’t encourage analysis and synthesis of idea.
The pace of a lecture may be unsuited to students e.g. not allow time for reflection.
Not well suited to a wide array of abilities/starting knowledge.
There may be little feedback for the teacher as to what learning is occurring.
Enable students to understand the basic principles.
Fits coherently within a larger overall programme, linking with prior and future learning.
Are well structured.
Are well paced.
Have well presented, relevant information.
Balances depth of the topic and conciseness.
Have an enthusiastic, knowledgeable lecturer.
Are teacher focused rather than learner focused e.g. talking about their area of interest.
Are poorly paced, not allowing time for student understanding of points.
Reads from the slides, rather than using any slides to augment what they are saying.
Techniques to improve lectures:
See lectures/presentations being given to give an idea of good and bad points e.g. TEDtalks (Here)
Know the venue of the lecture, including how to work any equipment.
Understand how the lecture fits in with the student’s learning.
Clearly write down the intended learning outcomes. What is the purpose of the lecture? Transmission of facts? Explanation of the overall concepts? Motivation of students? - Make these explicit to the students at the start.
Identify the content of the lecture. Highlight the key points and ensure the amount isn’t more than can be fitted within the time frame.
Spend time structuring the lecture well - include a beginning, middle and end.
Clearly signpost important components of the lecture to the students throughout, as well as providing an overview of the structure at the start.
Summarise the key points.
Rehearse the lecture well
Don’t have prolonged talking (over 20 mins) - vary the demands on the students to keep them engaged e.g. a quiz.
Consider how you will help students take note - publish notes online? Provide handouts? Give short breaks to allow students to consolidate their notes?
Consider testing the students at the end to promote retention
Consider using different modalities (visual, auditory, reading) to accommodate for different learning styles (kinaesthetic may be hard).
Also consider ways to promote active learning within lectures, and retain engagement:
Breakdown into small groups for discussion
Use interactive cases/problems
Use different media forms within the presentation e.g. video