Ending the Boring Lecture
When I was first hired to teach, I thought I could easily produce great lectures, the kind we see on Ted Talks. I had pictures, graphs, nicely formatted text, important content highlighted, animations, the works. My lectures were even enthusiastically delivered. Unfortunately, some students were not as engaged as I was expecting and several students were nodding off. What was I doing wrong and just how was I to keep my students engaged?
It’s not necessarily the content of the lecture or even its delivery that keeps students engaged, but activity…
After a lot of deliberation and several classes later (like Teaching Methods, Course Construction, and Educational Psychology), I discovered that it’s not necessarily the content of the lecture, or even its delivery that keeps students engaged, but activity (i.e. active engagement). People fall asleep all the time watching great movies or listening to talk-show radio. It’s not the lecture or the PowerPoint that’s at fault for lack of engagement, but lack of activity. “On Course” was all about engagement techniques and there are are many that we can adopt to keep the students both active and engaged in the lesson plans and I have adopted several techniques “On Course” and other sources to keep my students from being dis-engaged.
My lectures now include shorter sections with questioning techniques to keep the students on their toes, fill-in sheets, exercises to do in-class pertaining to the subject matter they just learned, and group activities/exercises to help students work together and problem solve (most of my content relies heavily on math skills). I really enjoy walking around the room and watching the students interact with each other to help solve problems and discover better methods to accomplish their tasks. If I see a group going astray, I help steer them back on track. If I see a group of people not working as a group, I stress the importance of helping each other in a cooperative fashion to accomplish their goals.
I no longer have students falling asleep and seldom are students staring at their cell-phones during the lecture because I keep them engaged. Thanks to “On Course” and other professional development activities, I have learned to help students succeed by keeping them engaged in the classroom.