Not Another Boring Lecture!

in Articles from our Newsletter

Sick and tired of your students looking sick and tired? Frustrated by the students reading the newspaper in the back row of your lecture hall? Here are some ways to improve the form of your lectures without degrading the quality or the content.

Metaphor #1: Think of Your Lecture as a Web Site

chinese-emperorTurn up your volume and go to China’s Great Armada, a feature on National Geographic’s web site. What do you notice right away? (If this were a lecture I would pause here for answers.)

Here are some of the features from this site that can be translated to teaching. Each point will be followed by how you can apply it in your lectures, unless it is obvious.

  • If your sound is turned on, you’re hearing music

  • There is a colorful picture

  • There is a concise introduction (let your students know what the take-home point of each lecture is)

  • You are alerted to the fact that there are four sections (clarify how you will organize the lecture)

  • There is a map, which leads to a timeline (present the material in different ways)

  • There are “learn more” links (this is the homework – you don’t have to give all the information in your lecture – let them “link” to the homework later)

  • There is a forum (allow time for discussion, perhaps by asking a provocative question)

Metaphor #2: This Newsletter is Like a Lecture

Although you might be thinking at this point, “I’m not teaching Kindergarten,” or “They came to college to learn, and they can take in the information any darn way I give it,” consider what attracts and holds your own interest. I think about this factor every time I write a newsletter. Here is a sample of what I consider when first preparing a newsletter.

  • How can I get the reader to open this newsletter?

  • What will make the reader want to read this entire article?

  • How can I make this article of value?

  • How can I entice the reader to look forward to my next issue?

boringlecturemindmap2

These points relate to your classes in a direct fashion. How do you get your students to think, “That lecture was really worth attending”? How do you give them what they need and want? As one student told me, don’t make your students wonder “Why am I here, and not in my room, reading a book about this in bed?”

Here are some actions I take to make my newsletter achieve its purpose.

  • I use color to engage the senses

  • I use links

  • I use examples in various forms

  • I show my own thought process when appropriate

  • I use “white spaces.” Any graphic designer will tell you that you must leave white spaces on the page to allow the eye to rest. (Allow pauses in your lectures to allow the students’ mind a place to rest. Pace yourself. Ask for questions periodically.)

  • I use bullets (help students understand the organization of your thinking as you proceed.)

  • I try to be creative and interesting, in order to keep the reader interested.

In case you don’t believe that any of this matters, take a peek at how this newsletter would look without any of these effects (the content is the same, however.) It’s pretty boring, right? Would you be enticed to read that every week? I wouldn’t.

(Try to find the sentence that I added to the boring example. I’ll bet you won’t think it’s worth trying to find.)

Your Homework Assignment (Should You Choose to Accept it)

If this were a lecture, I would now give you the assignment of writing five ways that you could use the ideas from this article to enhance your lectures. Since this is a newsletter, I would only ask you to write me with anecdotes of how you used this article to breathe life into your teaching. If you don’t complete this assignment, please come to my office hours.

© Gina Hiatt, PhD.

Previous post:

Next post: