Stop it! You’re Killing Me! Retooling Your Lecture

By Peter Connor

How many times have you stood at the front of a lecture hall half way through a critical presentation only to be greeted by the silent scream: Stop it! You're killing me!

Every teacher who's ever been there knows the lecture hall is a tough room. So how do the masters connect with their students? How do they keep their students heads from doing the nod and snap as they barely remain conscious? How do they keep them interested and engaged for 50 minutes?

Although many articles have been written on the subject, one of the best is North Carolina State University Chemical Engineering professor Richard Felder's How About a Quick One?

In it Felder observes: "Of all instructional methods, lecturing is the most common, the easiest, and the least effective." Hardly an encouraging statement, but he goes on to describe some simple ways for retooling dull lecture practices with more interesting and active instructional methods.

Some that have proven both effective and efficient include:

  • In-class Group Problem-Building
  • In-class Group Problem-Solving
  • In-class Group Trouble-Shooting
  • In-class Group Brainstorming
  • In-class Reflection and Question Generating

One or two of these, taking roughly five minutes each, strategically breaks up a lecture period, stimulates class participation, engages student attention and elevates interest in the subject at hand, all of which maximizes the teaching moment.

You don't have to be a spellbinder to be a good teacher but, Felder observes, there are definitely "better ways" of presenting lectures and, in doing so, becoming a better teacher.

The only time you really want hear the "Stop it! You're killing me" line is in somebody else's comedy routine. Boring is as boring does so, if you're bored with the lecture you've prepared, what are your students?

To learn more about implementing active instructional methods in your classroom lectures, read Felder's article at: How About a Quick One.

Sources:

Felder, R. M. (1992, Winter). How about a quick one? Chemical Engineering Education, 26 (1), 18-19. Retrieved June 17, 2007, from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Columns/Quickone.html.

Contributors:

TILT thanks Engineering Professor Darrell Fontane for suggesting the link to the article mentioned in this Teaching Tip.