GSU Master Teacher Program: The Lecture


This file discusses briefly (1) the several types of lectures, (2) planning the three phrases of an effective lecture, and (3) hints for presenting an effective lecture.

Why has the lecture survived? First, the lecture method is inexpensive because the ratio of students to teacher can be extremely large, Second, the lecture method is flexible because it can be adapted, on short notice, to any audience, subject matter, or time limit. Third, the lecture method provides teachers the opportunity to perform. Keeping students' interest is a real challenge and a wonderful reward to the gifted lecturer. Finally, students who seek facts and high grades prefer the lecture. We believe the lecture will survive in these technologically rich times because an effective lecturer engages his students and motivates them to learn a subject.

There are several major types of lectures.

The expository lecture is what most students think of when they hear that the faculty member "lectures a lot." The instructor does most of the talking. Occasionally bolder students ask questions of clarification.

The lecture - recitation encourages greater student participation. The instructor still does most of the talking, but often stops and asks students specific questions or requests students to read prepared material. In the lecture - recitation, the direction of interaction is either (1) instructor to class, (2) instructor to individual student, or (3) individual student to instructor..

The interactive lecture encourages student to student interaction. The instructor begins with a 15 to 25 minute mini-lecture and then asks the students to form learning groups and complete an assignment based on the mini-lecture. Then the instructor delivers another mini-lecture.

Planning the Lecture Introduction

Every lecture has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction tells students the points they are going to learn. The body conveys the points. The summary tells the students what they have learned. An effective lecturer follows the adage: "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them."

Use the introduction to

  • gain student attention (establish why the topic is important),
  • expose the essential content (terminology) of the lecture, and
  • share your expectations (cognitive objectives) concerning what students should master.
  • We recommend three strategies to arouse student attention:

  • begin a lecture with an application, the Application Opening
  • provide evidence of the topic's importance, and
  • use inter-lecture linking.
  • When you do not use an application opening, try (1) citing compelling statistics and trends, (2) indicating what would happen if the idea, concept or theory had not been developed, or (3) telling or demonstrating to students that the ideas will help them explain phenomena that they now can't understand. Inter-lecture linking is another method for gaining student attention. The link establishes connections between what has already been learned and what is to be learned.

    Telling students that the subject is difficult but understandable may also improve student motivation. Then if a student succeeds in understanding the topic, his self-reinforcement is greater, and if he fails, his loss of self-esteem is less. But if a student succeeds with what he has been told is an easy topic, his self-reinforcement is less, and if he fails, his loss of self-esteem is greater.

    There are two approaches to expose students to the lecture's content. Most faculty use a combination of a lecture outline, diagram, and overview. Alternatively, the advance organizer may be preferable for academically weak students.

    The outline serves two purposes. First, the instructor shares the lecture's organization with the students, and "tells them what he is going to tell them." Using a lecture outline (or, better yet, a diagram) helps students see the lecture's "flow". Second, the instructor can use the outline or diagram as he moves from one major point to the next during the lecture. In this way, the students know where they have been and where they are heading. The diagram is road map into the unknown.

    While sharing the outline with students, the instructor should also provide a lecture overview. An effective overview

  • presents the key topics;
  • summarizes the lecture's central points that establish the topic's importance;
  • defines the new terms.
  • The overview works because students learn through repetition. They hear the terms first in the introduction, again during the presentation, and finally in the conclusion. It also reinforces the outline or diagram used to introduce the topic.

    An advance organizer may be more effective for academically weak students. An advance organizer is a brief presentation or demonstration during the introduction that provides a mental scaffolding to anchor the new material. The advance organizer provides a set of highly general concepts that subsume the material about to be learned. An advance organizer taps into students' existing knowledge structures. It helps cross-list new information with already existing information and thus aids learning and knowledge retrieval. It makes the unfamiliar more familiar; it makes the abstract more concrete.

    Thinking students (in the MBTI-sense) do best when they know what is expected of them. Sharing topic, or cognitive, objectives with students during the introduction is an effective way to tell them what they must learn. It aids student motivation, note taking, and test performance.

    Use either of two approaches in sharing objectives. Include your cognitive objectives for the entire semester in your syllabus. Then when introducing a topic, state the objectives for which the students are responsible. Alternatively, write the topic objectives for each lecture on the blackboard or overhead projector .

    In summary, use the introduction to

  • gain student attention,
  • expose the lecture's essential content , and
  • share your expectations concerning what the students should master.
  • Planning the Body of the Lecture

    Planning the body of a lecture begins with recognizing three fundamental premises.

    Premise I is that instructors must teach in ways that students learn best.

    The most common Myers-Briggs Type Indicator profile for undergraduate business students is the Extraverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging learner. ESTJ students:

    Premise II is that we should select a teaching approach based on the highest level of learning desired.

    Use the expository lecture to achieve rote learning. The lecture-recitation is effective at the exercise solving level. The recitation interlude allows students to solve problems and share their answers with the class. Instructors should choose the interactive lecture to achieve the meaningful and integrated learning level. The active learning group exercise sandwiched between the mini-lectures supports the translation skills and integration skills necessary to achieve the comprehension learning level. Finally, the instructor should consider interactive student-centered approaches such as cases, role playing, simulations, or debates to achieve critical thinking.

    Premise III is that the lecture should not bear the major responsibility for conveying all the information.

    Readings should do that. Instructors must selectively focus on what to present. Since relatively few major points should be presented in a lecture, choosing what to present is important. What points then should be included in a lecture? Consider the following guidelines. Present:

  • central themes that tie together many topics. Sensing students have difficulty generalizing from specifics. Presenting central, or unifying, themes should help students see the inter-connectedness of ideas. Learning isolated bits of knowledge is difficult and less permanent than connected networks of information.
  • distinguishing points that help emphasize differences among concepts. It is difficult to learn ideas that are similar unless we stress the differences among them.
  • points of high interest to students. Most students are why-before-what learners. During the lecture's introduction present ideas that will stimulate students' curiosity, and make them want to learn the topic.
  • points that are difficult for the students. Here is where a live lecturer has a competitive advantage over the text. Instructors can make the abstract more concrete, the unfamiliar more familiar, and complex less complex.
  • points that are essential to achieving the lecture's critical objectives. This is the philosophy underlying the what must be known method of lecture construction.
  • Organizing a Lecture

    The instructor must decide how to organize the sequence of points into a coherent lecture. All of us have heard well-organized lectures-those whose structure made good sense, held together in a logical way, and seemed to be "going somewhere." We have also heard lectures that were hard to follow because the ideas seemed to jump around. We were never sure where the lecturer was or was going with the presentation. Here we present four alternatives to the hierarchical organizing strategy found in most textbook.

  • Sequential
  • What Must be Known
  • Decision Making
  • The Comparison

    Faculty can choose either a single strategy or a combination of strategies to organize a lecture.

    Sequential Strategy

    The teacher uses a chronological, logical, cause-effect, or building-to-a-climax sequence to organize the lecture. The sequential strategy naturally comes to mind in teaching history courses. However we can use the sequential organization for most topics. It is critical that the connections between successive links in the sequential chain be clear and easy to follow, otherwise students will get lost. Also the sequential organization must be important in its own right.

    Here we demonstrate how we developed a lecture on descriptive statistics using a sequential strategy. We asked the following questions:

    1. Why do managers use descriptive statistics for in business?

    ANSWER: to detect, diagnose, and solve problems.

    2. Is there a sequence that effective managers use to detect, diagnose, and solve problems?

    ANSWER: Yes, managers first collect data, then they organize and summarize the data, and then they interpret it.

    A chronological lecture begins with a presentation on data gathering methods. The lecturer then proceeds to discuss the various methods for organizing data such as histograms, box plots and line graphs. Next the lecturer presents how to summarize data using multiple measures of the center and spread. The lecture concludes with a presentation of how to interpret the measures of the center and spread, especially on how they help managers distinguish random and assignable cause variation.

    Decision Making Strategy

    The teacher uses a generalized decision making sequence to organize the lecture. The teacher begins with a set of facts that suggest a problem. He then uses the subject content to state and define the problem. The teacher then presents criteria for evaluating possible solutions, and information about and arguments for each of several possible solutions drawn from the subject content. The lecture concludes with an evaluation of the several solutions and the selection of the chosen solution.

    A decision making strategy can be highly motivating. An unsolved problem creates an excitement that increases students' desire to learn the subject content. Dramatic puzzlement can be heightened by rhetorical questions and skillfully timed introduction of new pieces of evidence. Furthermore, the instructor can emphasize the logic underlying the decision making model.

    The decision making strategy differs from the case method. As in the case method, the class begins with an undefined problem, and based on a general decision making model, arrives at a final decision. However in the case method, the students analyze the case using the decision making model. In the decision making lecture strategy, the instructor presents the lecture. The decision making strategy provides an opportunity for the lecturer to role model how an effective business decision maker makes decisions. Again the lecture sequence is important in its own right.

    The decision making strategy and application or problem-driven lecture opening also differ. Both do begin with a set of facts that describe a problem. At that point, the two methods diverge. Instructors who use the decision making strategy then proceed to lecture on how the subject content can help to define the problem. The instructor continues to use the general decision making model to structure the entire lecture. Instructors who use the application-driven opening ask student teams to solve the problem. Afterwards the instructor uses one or more of the organizing strategies to present the lecture.

    What-Must-be-Known Organization

    Starting with the most critical ideas within the chapter, the teacher asks the WMBK questions to determine the most direct path to mastering these ideas. Only topics that are essential to achieving the critical ideas are presented. Unessential topics, or side-trips, are either presented after completing the lecture's main journey or left to the students to master by reading the text.

    The Comparison Organization

    If a lecture entails comparing two or more principles, theories, or ideas, the compare and contrast organizing strategy is very effective.

    The lecture would begin with a discussion of the bases for comparison, or attributes, that will be used to compare and contrast the theories or principles. The teacher would discuss what the bases are and why they are important. Then the teacher applies the first basis of comparison to each theory. After completing the lecture on the first basis, the teacher (or students) summarizes the similarities and differences in the theories. The lecture continues by presenting each basis for comparison until all have been completed. This organizing method highlights the similarities and differences among two or more theories or principles.

    Planning an Effective Conclusion

    Conclude the lecture by "telling them what you told them." An effective summary includes three elements: (1) summarizing key ideas (2) developing an integrating framework, and (3) using ending strategies.

    Summarizing Key Ideas

    Depending on the level of cognitive objectives, the teacher or the students should summarize the lecture's key ideas. A teacher who desires rote learning should summarize the key points. A teacher who desires the comprehension or critical thinking levels should ask students to summarize the key points. This can be done either individually (using the two minute paper format) or in cooperative learning groups.

    Developing Integrating Frameworks

    Integrating frameworks indicate how the lecture's topics are interrelated and perhaps connected to previously-learned material. Here the teacher must make three decisions; when should an integrating framework be presented, who develops it, and what type of framework should be developed?

    When should the integrating framework be presented? Some instructors present an integrating framework during the lecture's introduction. This may not be appropriate for Sensing students (in Myers-Briggs sense). They learn best when they first learn the specifics and then learn how to generalize. Therefore after completing the body of lecture is an excellent time to interconnect the subject content. Presenting related topics without emphasizing the relationships among them promotes neither understanding nor satisfaction.

    Who develops the framework-the teacher or students? We recommend the teacher present the integrating framework when (1) time is short, (2) rote learning is desired, or (3) students have not been taught how to develop an integrating framework. Consider having students build frameworks (either in-class or as homework assignments) when meaningful and integrated learning is your goal. However, students may not be able to build integrating frameworks unless the teacher instructs them on the art and science of framework construction earlier in the semester.

    We recommend two approaches to developing an integrating framework-the compare and contrast table and the concept map.

    Presenting Content Effectively

    Lecture organization and clarity are essential to effective teaching and learning. However, effectively presenting a lecture is also critical. Often teachers pay too little attention to improving their communication skills. "Too often we lapse into thinking that because we communicate, " Jean Civikly writes, "we necessarily do it well. We stop questioning or reflecting on how we communicate and stop evaluating how well we do it." No matter how well we lecture, we can do it better!

    Consider audio or video taping your classes. Audio taping is most effective at identifying communications problems. For example: students should not

  • Have to strain to hear the speaker;
  • Have to puzzle over what it is they heard;
  • Be driven to distraction by repeated uhs, ahs, and you knows;
  • Be able to make book on the number of pet words, phrases, or jargon that a teacher will say. Or if they can, the odds should be 5 to 3, not 10 to 1;
  • Have to guess at the lecture's organization; and
  • Have to suffer a monotonous voice with little emphasis and force.
  • Novice and experienced teachers should occasionally audio tape their classes. Unlike video taping, audio taping is not disruptive, and often students are not even aware that the teacher is taping the class.

    Although perhaps disruptive to the class, video taping is most effective at identifying presentation, or stage, problems such as:

  • Lack of eye or personal contact with audience.
  • Fixed posture with attention riveted on notes.
  • Little awareness of time passing.
  • Annoying gestures.
  • Lack of respect for the audience.
  • Giving advice on how to lecture effectively is difficult. After all, a teacher's presentation style reflects his/her personality, and what works for one teacher may seem false and not work for another. Nevertheless we offer the following advice on effective lecturing, knowing that "one size does not fit all."

    First, reduce teacher talk time and increase student talk time. Shift from formal expository lectures to the more informal interactive lecture format. Lecture on fewer topics but delve deeper into the topics you present. Remember, less can be more!

    Second, while a teacher must plan and organize a lecture, the lecture should seem spontaneous. Teachers should strive to achieve a sense of immediacy when they lecture. Speak for the audience, but not at the audience.

    Third, students learn more from lectures delivered dynamically and enthusiastically. Enthusiasm may include high energy, gesturing, varied intonation, etc. But enthusiasm in a broader sense means communicating liveliness and conviction to the students. Thus, an enthusiastic lecturer is also one who conveys a deep sense of the importance and fascination of the subject.

    Fourth, emphasize the lecture's organization and critical points. Also use verbal "markers of importance." Such markers cue students to what they should learn especially well. Examples are: "Let me turn to what is the most important idea .."; "It is especially important to know that ..." . Frequently summarize the key ideas and use the lecture outline or diagram as a road map.

    Fifth, explain complex ideas simply and clearly. Avoid arcane terms. Say it in English while maintaining the precision of the technical terminology. Ask yourself: "How would an Extraverted- Sensing-Thinking-Judging learner want the material presented?"

    Sixth, provide the audience with frequent breathing spaces. Give them time to catch up with their note taking. Better yet, give them time to reflect on what they have heard. Best yet, shift students from passive note takers to active learners.

    Seventh, use a variety of technologies in the classroom. The blackboard is effective because it forces the stationary instructor to move around. When you write on the board, be careful not to talk to it lest you lose contact with the audience. The overhead projector is effective because it allows you to use prepared slides or write in real time thereby achieving spontaneity. Facing the audience minimizes the possibility of losing contact, but don't become "physically" attached to the overhead. Continue to "work the room." The CD-ROM and multimedia technologies are effective because they appeal to three types of learners-auditory, visual, and tactile.

    Eighth, seek multiple or extended examples to add depth and realism to the lecture. Multiple examples provide variety, reduce boredom, and help students to see the possible uses of the theory or concepts. Extended examples that continue over several lectures or the entire semester add realism and depth. Effective lecturers use both types of examples.

    Ninth, consider humor if it fits your personality. Self-deprecating humor works best at reducing class stress. Concept-related humor works best at helping students master the material. Humor directed at students is very risky, and should be avoided unless the teacher has established exceptional rapport with the class. You don't have to be David Letterman to be effective!

    Tenth, use the applications-driven opening to stimulate student interest in the subject. Provide an ending for every lecture that helps students to interrelate the present lecture to previous and future ones.

    Our best advice is that lecturing is a performing art, with substance and content. Be guided by the living audience.


    Additional Readings

    Joseph Lowman, Mastering the Techniques of Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1984).

    Joseph Lowman, Mastering the Techniques of Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1984).

    N. L. Gage and David Berliner, Educational Psychology, (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1979).

    David Ausubel, Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968).

    Jean Civikly, Communicating in College Classrooms (San Francisco: Jossey Bass Inc., 1986).

    Kenneth Eble, The Craft of Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey Bass Inc. 1988).

    J. Ware "The Doctor Fox Effect; An Experimental Study of the Effectiveness of Lecture Presentations and the Validity of Student Ratings" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Southern Illinois University, 1974).

    W. D. Coats and U. Smidchens, "Audience Recall as a Function of Speaker Dynamism," Journal of Educational Psychology, (57, 1966), 189-191.

    R. M. Kaplan and G. C. Pascoe, "Humorous Lectures and Humorous Examples: Some Effects upon Comprehension and Retention," Journal of Educational Psychology, (68, 1977), 61-65.


    This material can be copied and used for educational, non-profit purposes only. Copyright: Harvey J. Brightman, Georgia State University

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