Even with the widespread use of e-learning and creative use of new types of learning spaces, lecturing is still used to convey new knowledge or skills to a large number of students in a relatively short time. Often they are used to introduce key concepts which are then developed through self-directed learning, seminars and tutorials. They have much more potential than you may have experienced yourself as a student.
Context: how does your lecture fit into the curriculum? What has gone before, what will your lecture prepare the students for next? Make explicit connections between earlier teaching and their own experiences.
Aims: what do you want students to have understood and/or be able to do by the end of your lecture? In other words, what are the learning outcomes?
Plan: prepare a logical sequence – think in terms of 15/20 minute sections and at the end of each: recap, restate, change tone, give time for students to reflect, discuss in pairs. Use examples to bring theories and ideas to life.
Accessibility: how will your diverse range of students access what you have to say? Check the advice and support available to lecturers on inclusive learning.
Appropriate resources: the methods you use to deliver your lecture should serve your material and the audience. If using PowerPoint, check it’s not too text-heavy. Blocks of text and diagrams may be better on handouts. Basic information or background might be better conveyed via your university’s online learning/e-learning/virtual learning environment (VLE). This frees up students to make notes on the important stuff: making connections and reflecting on key concepts.
Check the venue: finding an unfamiliar lecture theatre beforehand is essential. Familiarise yourself with the layout, acoustics, IT and logon protocols, remote controls and IT support should you need it on the day. And, even in this day and age, a piece of chalk and a whiteboard eraser can still be really useful.
Be prepared! if the IT doesn’t work – have a plan; this does not include just hiding.
Establish rapport: make a connection early on; get the students on your side and set a tone. Chat to them as they come in, find out what they are expecting, and introduce yourself at the start of the lecture. The first five minutes sets the tone for the rest of the lecture, and indeed subsequent lectures – you have their attention: make the most of it.
Strong opening: take a breath; start confidently, enthusiastically and clearly. don’t rush and ensure you’re heard. Talk as though you expect attention and understanding, and generally you’ll get it.
Avoid reading a speech: use headings and bullet points, this will enable you to sound more conversational, spontaneous and maintain eye-contact.
Voice: your voice is your most important resource. If you can’t be heard or understood, there’s little point you being there. Check volume, pace and pronunciation by running through the first few minutes of your first lecture with a colleague. And if it’s a large lecture theatre, ask those at the back to let you know if they can hear you.
Interaction: ask students to discuss a question for 2 minutes in pairs. This breaks up the activity, allows you to mingle and check their levels of attention and understanding. It also adds variation and keeps your lecture lively.
Closing: the 3 rules of giving a good presentation apply: ‘tell them what you’re going to say, say it, tell them what you’ve told them’. So, summarise key points, suggest what they should do to dig deeper, pose some questions to be explored in the following seminars or tutorials and preview the next lecture.
Continuous improvement: the best teachers and lecturers continually get feedback. If you want to know if you’re any good:
- Ask a student: ideally set this up before a lecture and ask them to feedback at the end – usual incentives: free food and drink.
- Ask a colleagues to observe: ensure the feedback is specific and balanced – what did you do well? where could you improve?