Lecturing is the most common way of teaching at universities. Lecturing is especially fitted for arousing student curiosity and motivation to learn, to give an overview of a subject or to give an assembled background knowledge summary that is not otherwise available. Although this teaching format is very common, it is under pressure for many reasons, first of all because this format often leaves the students as passive spectators. However, it does not necessarily have to be so. Presentations will always be a part of teaching at universities. Moreover, no matter how many students you have in your classroom, presentations can be broken up by short student activities which can improve the outcome. Lecturers are expected to be more dynamic, to encourage active learning, and to engage students rather than deliver a monologue prompted by notes or PowerPoint slides. So when you are lecturing, do not speak for more than 15 minutes in a row. Then have a break where you can ask the students to take notes, reed their neighbors notes, arrange small group discussions etc.
The following is some basic presentation suggestions:
Grab student’s attention in your opening
The opening is the most important part, if you lose your students in the first five minutes it will be difficult to bring them on track. Therefore, you have to connect with your students they should know and feel that you all have something in common. Many lectures open their presentations by showing an agenda. Although it is nice for the audience to be presented for the program rather quick after the start, it might not be the best way to catch the attention. To grab this you might start with an example, an anecdote, a quiz or a question. From here, you can go to the aims and to the program. Get an agreement to engage the students from the start and encourage them to ask questions.
Talk to individuals
You don’t speak to the floor and you don’t speak to the birds outside the window. You speak to your students, so look at them while you are talking. But don’t look in the eyes on the same student for several minutes, it is too intimate. Look shortly at students sitting in different places in the room. When you address a specific student, use the students name if possible (you might have nameplates).
Your tempo, your voice and your body
When you start teaching it will be impossible to manage all the following to perfection. You have to implement it by and by. It is important not to exaggerate these matters, - don’t speak artificially slow or shout to be sure you can be heard. If the back rows have difficulties to hear you, use a microphone if possible. Speak clearly, not to fast, - not to slow. However, you probably have to speak slower than you do in a conversation. It also has a good effect if, now and then, you create variations in your tempo. Make pauses in your speak especially after key points. Try to vary the intonation (pitch and tone) of your voice, it doesn’t matter how interesting the content is, a monotone voice is guaranteed to send a lecture room full of students to sleep. Your breath is very important for your volume and for your tone. You have to use the air of your lunges to speak. If you are nervous, you can have a tendency to close your body, so your speech will be pressed only from our throat, and your sound will be low and unpleasant.
Use your hands and your body to underline points, important concepts etc. Move around in the room. Try to show enthusiasm about the topic and especially underline how important the student’s learning is for you. Don’t exaggerate entertaining the students, but you can benefit a lot from humor and a smile now and then.
You can also benefit from using a variety of teaching/communication technologies. However, do not overuse PowerPoint. PowerPoint is great for visualizing; it is neither your manuscript nor the student’s replacement of the textbook. Remember to use the blackboard/whiteboard, especially when you have a dialogue in your class.
Reactions from students
Keep an eye on your students’ reactions. Do they engage, do they listen to you, are they hiding behind the screens of their laptops, do they try to avoid falling asleep? You need to know. If you feel you lose them, ask them, ask what they think you can do better.
Try to avoid the following:
- Do not turn your back on the students and read from your PowerPoint. If one of your PowerPoints contains a lot of important text, the students can read themselves.
- Do not stay in a position where you obscure the screen or the blackboard.
- Try to avoid fillers (such as “um,” “er,” or “you know”).
- Try to avoid student’s open laptops, if they are not used. Notes can be taken in breaks, and they are most effective if they are written on paper.