Is the lecture dead? How do I keep my students engaged?

The lecture isn’t dead and still can be the most effective way to convey basic knowledge, communicate a professors’ intrinsic interest in a subject, and quickly clarify common misconceptions. With that said, students’ expectations for what happens within the four walls of the classroom and best teaching practices for developing deep, meaningful learning what are evolving. It is commonly cited that students’ attention span during lecture ranges between 10 and 20 minutes (Johnstone & Percival, 1978; for review see Wilson & Korn, 2007) with the trend likely moving toward the shorter end of that spectrum (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). In addition, research suggests students retain 70% of what is said in the first 10 minutes of a lecture, but only 20% in the last 10 minutes (Meyers & Jones, 1993).  While these numbers are not deterministic, there are two approaches faculty can take to engage students more readily in large lecture course:

1) Improve lecturing skills and course organization.

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Double Espresso-level:

  • Read “Understanding by Design” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) and use backward design to reorganize your entire course around big, meaningful ideas. TLCs can assist you in full course redesigns.

 

2) Implement active learning methods to supplement, break up, and/or replace in-class lecture.
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