Successful Lecturing: Presenting Information in Ways That Engage Effective
by Patricia Ann deWinstanley and Robert A. Bjork
New Directions for Teaching and Learning 89: 19-31, 2002
Reviewed by L. E. Olson
Recognizing that the lecture is likely to remain an integral part of the
professional curriculum, I recently did a literature search to see what had
been published recently on the topic. I found the suggestions in this article
worth considering, because each suggestion appeared to be supported by empirical
research. The authors begin by saying that they find it unfortunate that lecturing
seems to be in ?disrepute? these days, because they believe that
the lecture format is both indispensable for teaching large classes and can
be an effective teaching method ? if done in a manner that induces effective
They then list several components to effective information processing;
a. Enhances memory
b. Divided attention shown to be particularly detrimental during the encoding
process ? may cause students to misjudge how much study time needed
a. Fitting new information in with what they know already
b. Required for learning
a. Thinking of information in a number of ways, along with the implications
of the new information
b. Deepens understanding and facilitates recall
a. Actually producing the information
b. Leads to better learning
- Retrieval Practice
a. Pulling the new information out of memory
b. Enhances likelihood of recall later.
After describing the importance of each component, the authors suggest ways
to improve processing, and therefore long-term retention, by lecturing in ways
that facilitate student engagement.
- Space repetitions of important information within and across lectures. Cover
difficult or important information more than once, spaced across time, using
multiple approaches. Research shows that what appears to be the common sense
approach ? massing coverage of an important point within a single lecture ? is
not optimal for student learning.
- Present key concepts from multiple perspectives and demonstrate
the relevance of the information in multiple contexts to enhance variable
encoding of information and facilitate generalization of the knowledge. Interestingly
one of the studies cited suggests that faculty who are teaching the information
when the ?light finally comes on? get better teaching evaluations
than those who do the prep work of ?stringing the wires?. This
may explain some of the student comments I?m sure that most of us
have gotten at one time or another along the lines of ? ?I
only learned this when Dr.xxxx presented the material later in the course?.
Yes, you were finally ready to learn it ? but it was likely taught
multiple times by different faculty throughout the course/curriculum.
- Provide structure to the lecture. Provide an outline with
headers or a concept map that the students use to facilitate note-taking
during the lecture, then make the information available on the internet so
they can defer note-taking and listen without worrying that they will miss
something. The research cited contends that allowing students to defer note-taking
if they choose can enhance learning. Another study documented that students
who took notes with an outline had better notes, performed better on a relational
test, and recalled more ideas from the lecture than students who took notes
without an outline.
- Provide visual images, mental images, or other mnemonic techniques
during the lecture. Studies documented enhanced learning of unfamiliar
information by constructing an analogy table, selective injection of subject-relevant
humor, or strategic injection of enthusiasm. Selective placement of enthusiastic
comments within the lecture promoted learning more than overall enthusiasm.
Given that 55 minute lectures can exceed typical attention spans, the authors
suggest lecturing for 25 minutes, then doing a mnemonic technique (demonstration,
class exercise etc.), then lecturing for the final 20 minutes.
- Provide opportunities for students to explain the reasons for answers. Research
showed that students who studied in a group and never elaborated their own
answers performed more poorly than the students who provided the explanations
for the answers. The authors suggest that requiring students to answer questions
during the lecture increases the likelihood that students will be able to
transfer the learning to different situations. Students could be asked to
respond to questions, make predictions, generate lists of specific terms,
or create outlines of the information.
In sum, the name of the game is structuring the lecture so that the students
encode the information in a way that renders it retrievable and transferable? which
is what learning is all about. Although students always seem (to me) to be
clamoring for more detailed class notes ? this article suggests that
it may not be in their best interest to have the detailed notes in front of
them during the lecture.
Interestingly, they suggest that teaching tools such as PowerPoint have made
faculty more susceptible to dividing the attention of students by asking them
attend to slides that contain information that differs from what is being spoken.