Making Your Lectures Active

As you can expect, there are more effective methods to facilitate student learning than standing at the front of a classroom lecturing on a topic to your students.  To further facilitate learning, institutions of higher education are asking their instructors to change from the "Sage on the Stage" model of lecturing, to a "Guide by the Side" model, by incorporating active learning techniques into lectures.  Many different types of active lecturing techniques exist, but they all have a common theme:  instructors get students involved in a discussion, or in organizing course information during a lecture.  The most important consideration when making your lectures active is to lead with a question.  Create a hypothesis and ask students make a prediction.  Some pedagogical strategies that are very easily incorporated immediately could be polling, a brief writing exercise, or think-pair-share.  The activities below are examples of some active lecturing techniques:

  • Student Summary of Another Student's Answer
    After one student has provided an answer to a question, as another student to summarize that response.  This activity promotes active listening and fosters active participation amongst the students.  Additionally, the students may even launch into a discussion of the response!
  • Puzzles/Paradoxes
    Present the topic you are lecturing on as a puzzle or paradox, and have the students discuss as a class to find a solution.  Forcing your students to work through to a solution without the input of authority (you), you help your students develop critical thinking faculties that will serve them better in the future.
  • Concept Mapping
    Developing a concept map requires students to identify relationships between topics and organize the information into a graphic with connections between major subtopics.  You can create a concept map actively in class by presenting the subtopics and asking your students to state which are related, and why.

Active Learning for the College Classroom from Cal State, Los Angeles provides additional examples that may work for your classroom.

The K. Patricia Cross Academy has made short videos describing several teaching techniques you can use to engage your students in class.  The techniques range from active learning to encouraging group work and facilitating student reflection.