Enhance Your Lectures: Make them More Active

There are ways to make lectures more participatory, more engaging for your students. This tip describes 4 ways to increase active-learning in a basic lecture-format class.

Taking "Periodic Pauses" Lecture Format

First 12-15 Minutes: Lecture.

Pause for 2 Minutes: Students work in pairs to review, discuss and revise their notes.

Repeat the Pattern: Do 2 or 3 times.

Last 3 Minutes: Have students write down everything they can recall from the lecture.

Results: On a 65-item multiple-choice quiz given 12 days after the last lecture, comprehension and retention of lecture material was consistently higher; in some cases up to 2 letter grades better.

Note: "Treatment" and "control" groups were measured in two different courses over two semesters.

"Immediate Test" Following Lecture Format

Format: Give a test at the end of each lecture on the material covered each day.

Results: Doubled the retention rate of lecture material on a test given 8 weeks after the last lecture.

Note: This format based on empirical observations that people comprehend and retain material better when tested quickly and frequently.

"Feedback" Lecture Format

Before Class: students do "study questions."

First 20 Minutes: Lecture.

Next 10 Minutes: Small groups discuss teacher-provided, lecture-related question(s).

Next 20 Minutes: More lecture.

After Class: Students do more "study questions."

Results: 99% of students liked the method and 93% said they in fact did do the study questions both before and after class.

"Guided" Lecture Format

First 30 Minutes: Lecture (students take NO notes).

Next 5 Minutes: Students take notes on what they remember.

Last 15 Minutes: Small groups discuss teacher-provided question related to lecture.


Bonwell, C. C., Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creative excitement in the classroom. In ASHE-ERIC Higher education report #1. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University.

University of Oklahoma Program for Instructional Innovation. (n.d.) Enhanced Lecture Formats. In Ideas on teaching. Retrieved August 11, 2008, from the University of Oklahoma Program for Instructional Innovation Web site: http://www.ou.edu/pii/tips/ideas/lecture.html

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This Teaching Tip was adapted from material developed by the Program for Instructional Innovation at the University of Oklahoma.


Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor