How to Make Lectures More Effective

Effective lecturers combine the talents of scholar, writer, producer, comedian, entertainer, and teacher in ways that contribute to student learning.

Is the lecture an effective method of teaching? Right now, it is on

Discussion methods are superior to lectures in student retention of information after the end of a course.

What are lectures good for?

  • Presenting up-to-date information (there is typically a gap between the latest scholarship and its appearance in a textbook.)
  • Summarizing material scattered over a variety of sources
  • Adapting material to the background and interests of a particular group of students at a particular time and place
  • Helping students read more effectively by providing an orientation and conceptual framework
  • Focusing on key concepts, principles, or ideas

“…the enthusiasm of the lecturer is an important factor in affecting student learning and motivation…enthusiastic teachers move around, make eye contact with students, and use more gestures and vocal variation, and that teachers could learn these behaviors.” HOWEVER, don’t feel you have to show higher energy every minute. There will be times when calm, quiet, slow speech may be needed…times when you may need to wait and reflect before responding.

The lecture needs to build a bridge between what is in the students’ minds and the structures in the subject matter.


are the elements of the bridge.

Types of Lectures:

Conclusion oriented

What is an ideal approach to lecturing early in a course is likely to be inappropriate later in the course. Because of this, one should in the first weeks of a course go more slowly and give more everyday types of examples. Pausing to write a phrase or sketch a relationship on the chalkboard will not only gives students a chance to catch up but also provide visual cues that can serve as points of reference later.

In lectures the instructor is usually in control, and this sense of controlled structure helps the anxious teacher avoid pure panic. Most lecturers use an outline or a sequence of cue words and phrases. Try forming your notes as a series of questions. Extensive notes take the instructor out of eye contact with students so that students fall into a passive, nonquestioning role. The use of graphic representations increases teaching flexibility and spontaneity. Can put time cues in the margin like

Put on board
Check student understanding – ask for examples.
Ask students for a show of hands
Put students in pairs to discuss this

Indicate signposts to tell students what is ahead
Transitions that tell students when you are finishing one topic and moving to the next
Key points or concepts
Links such as consequently, therefor and because

Allow time for questions and if you finish early, let the students use the remaining time to write a summary, use notes to prepare a handout with a structure students can use for filling in their notes and asking questions.

Organization of Lectures

How Can Lectures be Improved?

First, think about how students process lectures. What are they trying to do? Ideally, they are attempting to construct knowledge by linking what the lecturer says with what they already know.

Teaching Students How to Be Better Listeners

Ask students to write for one minute on “What do I hope to get out of this lecture?” or “What was the most important point in the reading assignment for the day?”

Another strategy is to ask students to listen to you for 5-15 minutes without taking notes and then to write a summary. Then it could be interesting to ask them to compare their summaries with a classmate.

How Do Students Process the Content of a Lecture?

Surface approach – taking notes word for word.

Deep processing – elaborate and translate the instructor’s words into their own; more active and thoughtful listening.

Should Students Take Notes?

Notetaking depends on one’s ability to maintain attention, understand what is being said, and hold it in working memory long enough to write it down.

Encourage students to take fewer notes and to listen carefully when you are introducing new, difficult material. They can then fill in their notes after class.

How to Get Students Actively Thinking In a Lecture Situation

The 1-minute paper on a topic derived from the lecture or from the previous week’s lecture.


The role of the lecturer is to communicate enthusiasm about a subject.