Giving a Lecture: From Presenting to Teaching

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Giving a Lecture: From Presenting to Teaching

Giving a Lecture The second edition of Giving a Lecture builds upon the reputation and success of the Key Guides for Ef

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Giving a Lecture

The second edition of Giving a Lecture builds upon the reputation and success of the Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education series. It is an excellent resource for those new to University and College level teaching and for those who want to reflect upon their practice. The best selling first edition has been fully revised.This edition maintains its jargon-free and accessible style, explaining exciting developments and the fundamentals of lecturing. The second edition provides: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

A new chapter on podcasting and e-lecturing Much more on the effective use of PowerPoint Guidance on using interactive handsets for active learning and engagement Consideration of the role of lectures in Problem Based Learning (PBL) courses An expanded chapter on current diversity/inclusivity issues A fresh look with new illustrations Updated Recommended Reading and Web-Resource sections

This book provides new University and College Teachers, Graduate Teaching Assistants, Part-time Tutors, Teaching Clinicians and Practitioners, and those interested in educational and staff development with the guidance to lecture with confidence and skill. Kate Exley is Senior Staff Development Officer at the and a consultant in Higher Education. Reg Dennick is Assistant Director of Medical Education in the Medical School at the University of Nottingham.

Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education Series Edited by Kate Exley This indispensable series is aimed at new lecturers, postgraduate students who have teaching time, Graduate Teaching Assistants, part-time tutors and demonstrators, as well as experienced teaching staff who may feel it’s time to review their skills in teaching and learning. Titles in this series will provide the teacher in higher education with practical, realistic guidance on the various different aspects of their teaching role, which is underpinned not only by current research in the field, but also by the extensive experience of individual authors, and with a keen eye kept on the limitations and opportunities therein. By bridging a gap between academic theory and practice, all titles will provide generic guidance on teaching, learning and assessment issues, which is then brought to life through the use of short illustrative examples drawn from a range of disciplines. All titles in the series will: ■ ■ ■ ■

represent up-to-date thinking and incorporate the use of computing and information technology (C&IT) where appropriate consider methods and approaches for teaching and learning when there is an increasing diversity in learning and a growth in student numbers encourage reflexive practice and self-evaluation, and a means of developing the skills of teaching, learning and assessment provide links and references to other work on the topic and research evidence where appropriate.

Titles in the series will prove invaluable whether they are used for self-study or as part of a formal induction programme on teaching in higher education (HE), and will also be of relevance to teaching staff working in further education (FE) settings. Other titles in this series: Small Group Teaching: Seminars, Tutorials and Beyond – Exley and Dennick (2004) Assessing Students’ Written Work: Marking Essays and Reports – Haines (2004) Using C&IT to Support Teaching – Chin (2004) Designing Learning: From Module Outline to Effective Teaching – Butcher, Davies and Highton (2006) Assessing Skills and Practice – Brown and Pickford (2006) Developing Your Teaching: Ideas, Insight and Action – Kahn and Walsh (2006) Enhancing Learning Through Formative Assessment and Feedback – Irons (2007) Working One to One With Students – Wisker, Exley, Antoniou and Ridley (2008) Inclusivity and Diversity – Grace and Gravestock (2008) Giving a Lecture: From Presenting to Teaching – Exley and Dennick (second edition, 2009)

Giving a Lecture From Presenting to Teaching Second Edition

Kate Exley and Reg Dennick

First edition published 2004 by RoutledgeFalmer This edition published 2009 by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2009. To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to © 2004 Kate Exley and Reg Dennick © 2009 Taylor & Francis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Exley, Kate. Giving a lecture: from presenting to teaching/by Kate Exley and Reg Dennick. – 2nd ed. p. cm. – (Key guides for effective teaching in higher education series) 1. Lecture method in teaching. I. Dennick, Reg. II. Title. III. Series: Effective teaching in higher education. LB2393.E95 2009 378.1796 – dc22 2008042450 ISBN 0-203-87992-9 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN10: 0–415–47139–7 (hbk) ISBN10: 0–415–47140–0 (pbk) ISBN10: 0–203–87992–9 (ebk) ISBN13: 978–0–415–47139–8 (hbk) ISBN13: 978–0–415–47140–4 (pbk) ISBN13: 978–0–203–87992–4 (ebk)


Series preface Acknowledgements List of figures List of tables

vii x xi xii

1 Why lecture?


2 Preparing to lecture


3 Structuring and sequencing lectures


4 Using your voice effectively and projecting a confident self


5 Handling nerves, anxieties and discipline problems


6 Presenting material visually and using PowerPoint well


7 Preparing and using handouts and learning resources


8 Active learning in lectures and using interactive handsets


9 Podcasting and e-lectures


10 Responding to different needs and student diversity


11 Evaluating lecturing and developing your practice




Appendix I : Supporting students with a disability: the legal position Appendix II : Further information on specific disabilities and support organizations Bibliography Index


212 215 216 225

Series preface

THE SERIES The Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education series was initially discussed as an idea in 2002 and the first group of four titles was published in 2004. New titles have continued to be added and the series now boasts ten books. It has always been intended that the books would be primarily of use to new teachers in universities and colleges. It has been exciting to see them being used to support postgraduate certificate programmes in teaching and learning for new academic staff and clinical teachers and also the skills training programmes for postgraduate students and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) who are beginning to teach.A less anticipated, but very valued, readership has been the experienced teachers who have dipped into the books when reviewing their teaching and have given the authors feedback and made further suggestions on teaching approaches and examples of practice. THIS NEW EDITION Feedback from readers of the first edition of Giving a Lecture has been encouraging and positive but time stands still for no one and developments in this area of teaching have been fast and exciting. Lecturing remains a cornerstone of many higher education courses but, as a mode of teaching, it has not been without its critics, with some even arguing for its abolition from our courses. The authors of this text take a different view, that the lecture is evolving in new and stimulating ways and continues to enrich the learning experience of students in both face-to-face learning settings and online, at a distance and in virtual learning environments. Experimentation with podcasting and e-lectures, interactive handsets and new presentation media are revolutionizing the lecture as we know it and are



part of the new world in which we now consider lecturing and the skills of the lecturer. By revisiting and updating some of the defining themes of the first edition whilst making these new topic additions we hope to have provided a useful guide for the modern lecturer. KEY THEMES OF THE SERIES The books are all attempting to combine two things – to be very practical and to provide lots of examples of methods and techniques and also to link to educational theory and underpinning research. Articles are referenced, further readings are suggested and researchers in the field are quoted. There is also much enthusiasm here to link to the wide range of teaching development activities thriving in the disciplines, supported by the excellent work of national teaching bodies such as the Higher Education Academy Subject Centres and the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs) in the UK. Indeed both the Subject Centres and the CETLS are frequently recommended as further sources of information and suggested as useful points of contact, throughout the volumes. The need to tailor teaching approaches to meet the demands of different subject areas and to provide new teachers with examples of practice that are easily recognisable in their fields of study, is seen as being very important by all the authors. To this end the books in the series include many examples drawn from a wide range of academic subjects and different kinds of higher education institutions. This theme of diversity is also embraced when considering the heterogeneous groups of students we now teach. Student cohorts include people of different ages, experience, ability, culture, language, etc. and all the books include discussion of the issues and demands this places on teachers in today’s universities. Where appropriate this may include guidance on current legislation and shared views on good practice in teaching for inclusivity. The books in this series also have more than half an eye trying to peer into the future – what will lectures look like in ten or twenty years time? How will we assess and tutor our students? How will student expectations, government policy, funding streams, and new technological advances and legislation affect what happens in our learning spaces of the future? You will see, therefore, that many of the books do include chapters that aim to look ahead and tap into the thinking of our most innovative and creative teachers in an attempt to crystal ball gaze.



So these were the original ideas underpinning the series and I and my co-authors have tried hard to keep them in mind as we researched our topics and typed away.We really hope that you find the books to be useful and interesting whether you are a new teacher, just starting out in your teaching career, or you are an experienced teacher reflecting on your practice and reviewing what you do. Kate Exley Series Editor



The authors of this book gratefully acknowledge the support, input and encouragement that they have received from friends, colleagues and family. The book has been framed with particular people in mind, i.e. the new teachers who have attended our teaching and learning workshops in recent years. Particular thanks are due to the occasional teachers at the London School of Economics (LSE), the medical clinicians and new lecturers at the universities of Nottingham, Cardiff and Swansea and the postgraduates who teach at De Montfort and Newcastle universities. Special thanks must go to colleagues who have given of their views and told us about their approaches to lecturing from a wide range of discipline areas. The list is by no means exhaustive, but includes Liz Barnett, Liz Sockett, Wyn Morgan, Stan Taylor, Stephen Griffiths, Paul Francis, David Pollack, Peter Mayer, Paul Chin, Peter Davies, Gill Manning,Aaron Meskin, Joel Feinstein, Martin Towers, Andrew Fisher, Paul Crawford and Allan Jones. Steve Draper, at the University of Glasgow and David Nicol at the University of Strathclyde are thanked sincerely for their expertise, and willingness to share it, on the use of interactive handsets in lectures and their impact on student learning. A big thank you too to Stephanie Hawkes for the original illustrations in the book. Sincere thanks too to Sarah Burrows, for her continued support and enthusiasm and Alex Sharp and Alina Smyslova at Routledge. Their knowledge of the process of writing and publishing and their understanding of authors’ foibles made their help and guidance invaluable.


List of figures

1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 5.1 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 7.1 7.2 8.1 9.1

Constructive alignment Bloom’s taxonomy for the cognitive domain ‘Too much to say, too little time’ Suggested key topics to include in a first year lecture on safety Signposting Disruption at the back of the lecture hall Planning the use of board space Making more of an impact with flipcharts Using overhead transparency overlays Diagram showing an example of a different viewing pathway of material/information presented on a slide An interactive handout used for a lecture on respiratory failure (I) An interactive handout used for a lecture on respiratory failure (II) Key pads can be used to make lectures more interactive The process of podcasting

3 4 18 19 31 69 80 82 84 94 116 117 137 153


List of tables

1.1 Mapping learning outcomes and teaching methods 2.1 What is the lecturing context? Key questions to ask 3.1 Final remarks – points a lecturer may wish to make at the end of a session 5.1 Common symptoms of nerves 5.2 Guidance from the University of Pennsylvania on correct breathing technique 6.1 An investigation into the use of graphics in visual aids 8.1 Introducing ‘active learning’ in lectures: common challenges and possible ways forward 8.2 Using demonstrations in lectures 8.3 Tasks that students can undertake in a lecture 8.4 Suggested learning activities for students using interactive handouts in lectures 8.5 The sequence of activities in peer instruction and class-wide discussion 9.1 A six-point guide to podcasting 9.2 Supporting a range of learning needs via podcasting 10.1 The required response and strategies outlined in the Code of Practice – Students with Disabilities, UNSW, Australia 10.2 An agreement statement produced by the Office for Students with Disabilities at the University of California, Los Angeles


4 15 47 60 64 86 123 127 130 133 143 158 162 182 184

Chapter 1

Why lecture?

THE HISTORY OF THE LECTURE The lecture, presented to hundreds of students in a lecture theatre, is the standard model of academic teaching. Academic staff in the UK are called lecturers and readers, terms deriving from the Latin lectare meaning ‘to read aloud’. The technique goes back many hundreds of years, to the monasteries of Europe before the use of printed books, where scholars would travel miles to gain access to specific texts. In a scriptorium a monk at a lectern would read out a book and the scholars would copy it down word for word. One wonders whether much has changed since then as the activity of copying down the lecturer’s notes is still one of the main functions of lecturing in higher education. Lecturing is the transference of the notes of the lecturer to the notes of the student without passing through the brains of either. (Anon) Traditionally lecturing is often perceived by students as boring, with little intellectual stimulation coming from monotonous lecturers. Most people tire of a lecture in ten minutes; clever people can do it in five. Sensible people never go to lectures at all. (Stephen Leacock in Sherin 1995:104) Lecturing is often viewed as an example of ‘passive learning’ in which the only activities students engage in are listening and note taking. Such lectures are often described as ‘didactic’ which means ‘intending to instruct’, from the Greek didaskein, ‘to teach’. However, in recent years



the introduction of ‘active learning’ methods in tertiary education has become more popular, reflecting a greater understanding of the learning process derived from educational research and cognitive psychology (see series website guide, Brown 2004). Active learning, which includes activities such as discussion, questioning, problem solving and other forms of interactivity, has been shown to encourage ‘deeper’ learning. Hence there has been a move away from lecturing to more small group teaching, self-directed learning and problem-based learning in many areas. However, these changes represent a challenge to the traditional teacher and mean that a wider range of teaching skills need to be acquired; teachers need to be competent in a range of learning methods. Hence the teacher is not just the ‘sage on the stage’ but must also become ‘the guide by the side’ (see Exley and Dennick 2004 for an introduction to small group teaching). However, as student numbers have increased in tertiary education and many universities have tried to resist the pressures of increasing staff/student contact hours in order to protect research productivity, there has been a recent increase in lecturing together with other forms of large group teaching. How can these two very different positions be reconciled? How can a traditionally passive situation be made active to encourage deeper learning? The view presented in this book is that there are a variety of different learning activities that can be carried out by students during a lecture, rendering the ‘passive’ learning description somewhat redundant. In addition, e-lecturing strategies (see Chapter 9) also represent an evolving form of the modern lecture. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the ‘sage on the stage’ also exerts a powerful role-modelling function.As Burgan has pointed out (Burgan, 2006) ‘students benefit from seeing education embodied in a master learner who teaches what she has learned’. The expert lecturer presenting important concepts from the cutting edge of knowledge, in a stimulating and enthusiastic way, demonstrates an intellectual mastery that should captivate and inspire the minds of their audience.This demonstration of learning by the act of exposition is itself a valuable learning experience for all students in tertiary education. LECTURING AND CONSTRUCTIVE ALIGNMENT The concept of constructive alignment (Biggs 1999b) suggests that a curriculum should have a set of well-defined learning outcomes that are acquired via a set of appropriate learning experiences. The learning that has taken place is then assessed via a set of appropriately valid assessment



tools.The whole system is then evaluated via quality assurance processes and modified if necessary, leading to a process model of the curriculum as shown in Figure 1.1. It is at the level of learning experiences that decisions need to be made about the balance between different types of teaching methods. Different learning outcomes are more appropriately acquired by different learning or teaching methods. Learning outcomes can be categorized in a number of ways. One method is to use ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ for the cognitive domain (Anderson and Krathwol 2001), which is shown in Figure 1.2. A simplified categorization splits knowledge outcomes into three broad categories: ■ ■ ■

factual and conceptual understanding; application and use; problem solving and evaluation.

The problem is then to decide which categories of outcome are more appropriately gained using the various teaching and learning modalities available in higher education. Table 1.1 indicates which of the common modalities are more appropriate for which of the three outcomes. • Outcomes • Objectives • Aims • Goals

Teaching sessions

Other learning experiences Evaluation

■ FIGURE 1.1


Constructive alignment.



check distinguish organize structure apply demonstrate deconstruct implement Analyse use

assess critique

judge generate plan produce Create


describe explain recognize interpret Apply list recall Understand Remember

■ FIGURE 1.2

Bloom’s taxonomy for the cognitive domain.

Source: Based on updated taxonomy, Anderson et al. 2001.


Mapping learning outcomes and teaching methods Factual and Conceptual Understanding

Application and Use

Problem Solving and Evaluation


Small Group Teaching

Self-Directed Learning


ComputerAssisted Learning/Web

Problem-Based Learning

Experiential Learning



Some teachers might argue that you can teach application and usage or problem solving and evaluation in lectures.There is no doubt that students in conventional lectures may observe the lecturer engaging in applying knowledge and problem solving and even mentally engaging in the process, so there is some cognitive gain. However, there is a big difference between teaching about applying knowledge and problem solving and learners actually applying or problem solving themselves. These activities can be better supported in a small-group teaching environment. It can be seen that conventional lecturing appears to be ideally suited to the acquisition of factual information and conceptual understanding. However, it is very possible, and probably desirable, to create a richer lecturing environment in which the students can carry out a variety of active and interactive learning tasks. It then becomes possible for learners to achieve many of the higher levels of cognitive and skills development within the lecture. Therefore, constructive alignment suggests that curriculum planners should decide on the balance between different teaching methods and modalities based on the learning outcomes of the curriculum. Clearly key factual and conceptual outcomes will be more appropriately learned in conventional lectures and higher cognitive outcomes may be best acquired in a small group teaching session or partially achieved in an interactive lecture. This situation also raises the question of the relative proportion of key factual and conceptual outcomes there should be in the curriculum in the first place. One of the problems of the modern curriculum, particularly in the scientific and technical disciplines, is the exponential growth in knowledge. This frequently manifests itself as an increased number of facts, ideas and concepts that have to be crammed into an ever-expanding curriculum. But clearly this expansion cannot continue indefinitely. Decisions have to be made on the size of the ‘core’ factual content of the curriculum and this will clearly influence the number of lectures that will be required. LEARNING STYLES Another reason for curriculum planners to include lectures in the curriculum, ensuring a balance with other teaching methods, is the issue of individual learning styles. A number of psychometric tests reveal that learners differ in their approach to learning. For example, Honey and Mumford (1982) suggest that a learner’s learning style can be profiled under four categories: activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists.



The four learning style categories map closely to the four quarters of the experiential learning cycle proposed by David Kolb (1984): concrete experience; observation and reflection; forming abstract concepts, and testing in new situations, and indicate a preference for particular learning activities. For example, learners who are strongly activist in their approach will prefer learning contexts which allow them to ‘learn by doing’ whereas pragmatists appreciate learning in the light of a clear application and use for their learning. It is important not to use such terminology to ‘label’ students, and to recognize that learning styles are strongly influenced by the learning context and that learners will both challenge and hone their learning preferences during a course of study. (Please see the web-based guide, Brown 2004, for a more detailed discussion of the theories of learning underpinning these learning styles. See also a recent critique of the use of learning styles by Coffield et al. (2004).) A well-known system of personality classification was developed by Kathleen Briggs and Isabel Myers in the twentieth century based on Carl Jung’s book Psychological Types (Jung and Baynes 1971).The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator reveals a more complex set of sixteen categories (Myers and Briggs 2002). David Keirsey has developed and redefined MyersBriggs’ terminology and produced the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) (Keirsey 1998). Here, four basic dimensions of temperament are presented: extroversion and introversion; intuition and sensing; thinking and feeling, and judgement and perception. For our purposes these different ‘indicator’ tests strongly suggest that within a large group of students there will be a distribution of different learning styles and different personality types, which encourages the view that our students will learn more or less effectively from different learning situations. On these grounds it is therefore necessary to provide a variety of learning situations so that all students have an opportunity to use their preferred learning style at some time during the course. COST-EFFECTIVENESS It is frequently argued that lecturing is the most cost-effective way of teaching students. One lecturer can teach hundreds of students in a large lecture theatre. However, there is a huge conceptual difference between teaching students, or ‘covering’ a topic as it is sometimes referred to, and students learning the information presented. If all that was taught was learned then it would be truly cost-effective, but it isn’t. Evidence suggests that only 10 per cent of the words delivered in a lecture are recorded in



the notes of the students with only a small proportion effectively learned in the short term and with long-term retention significantly reduced (Johnstone and Su 1994). In addition, as previously discussed, the nature of what is learned in conventional lectures is usually only of the factual and conceptual understanding variety; higher cognitive outcomes tend not to be acquired. However, the arguments surrounding cost-effectiveness usually refer to conventional, passive, didactic lectures; interactive lectures in which the students are encouraged to actively engage with the lecture material, to be described later, can result in a greater level of understanding. WHAT CAN THE ‘TRADITIONAL’ LECTURE DO WELL? The teaching tips given to teachers in the School of Sciences at the University of Staffordshire summarize a commonly held view of the traditional lecture and list the strengths associated with it. Five reasons for giving lectures 1 2



Communicating enthusiasm for the topic. This is the best reason for delivering lectures as it is one of the few features that cannot be gained by independent learning. Providing a structure or framework for the material. A lecture is a good format with which to impose a certain emphasis on the material that students will read about.This might be desirable for a number of reasons.You might wish to emphasize certain points of view (maybe your own), raise issues that will shape the students’ thinking about the topic, relate the topic to others in the course, explore practical applications of the central ideas, and so on. Tailoring material to the students’ needs. Experience might tell you that the textbooks for a topic do not cover the material in sufficient depth or at the right level for your audience. In this case, lectures can serve to ‘part digest’ the material so that students will be better able to extend their learning using books and other sources. It might also be the case that all of the material you want to cover is not available together in one external source. Providing current information. However good the available textbooks and other resources are, they are rarely going to be




absolutely up-to-date and, in any case, will not remain so for long. The lecture provides an opportunity to present recent research to students. This may include your own current work or even ideas you have for research that would be good to conduct. Using another format is not viable. This is often the case when you are faced with large student numbers. It is, of course, true that giving a lecture is more cost-effective than repeating a small group seminar many times. However, there may also be pedagogic grounds for rejecting other formats. (Staffordshire University, Teaching and Learning webpages, sciences/learning_and_teaching/ LTMlect.htm)

THE CRITERIA FOR INCLUDING A LECTURE IN THE CURRICULUM The discussion above implies that conventional lectures should be focused into particular areas of the curriculum and should only occur when specific conditions are met.The most important are listed and explained below. Clear overview ■


A lecture should be an overview of a key area of knowledge delivered by someone knowledgeable in the field who understands the problems and potential misunderstandings that can occur. The lecturer should have refined and processed the information to be presented and should have ensured that it is useful and relevant in terms of overall curriculum outcomes. The lecturer should be able to provide added value in terms of simplified explanations of complex concepts that go beyond what might be found in conventional textbook presentations of the subject. The lecturer should be aware of the level and stage of the students and should adjust content and explanations appropriately.


Controlled factual content ■

■ ■

The amount of material presented should be strictly controlled and should fit within the overall curriculum outcomes of the course. The lecture should focus on the core themes, central arguments and information, and should limit the amount of detail and the number/obscurity of examples used. If necessary, further information can be provided in handouts or in the recommended reading. The lecturer does not have to ‘cover’ everything in the lecture.

Informed and enthusiastic lecturer ■

■ ■

Lecturers should have had some basic training in lecturing and presentation skills and should be competent to use a range of audio-visual aids. They should be able to structure and organize a lecture and have good time management awareness. Lecturers should demonstrate enthusiasm for their subject and should communicate this to their audience by means of an interesting and stimulating presentation.

FINAL REMARKS In summary, then, whether or not you choose to give a lecture should depend on what you are trying to achieve. For the expedient transmission of facts and information then the traditional, expository lecture format is effective. When compared with more discursive forms of teaching there are few possibilities for feedback, student questions and the development of problem solving and higher order cognitive skills (Bligh 2006). The traditional lecture greatly benefits from being delivered by a knowledgeable, prepared and, above all, enthusiastic teacher. Knowing how to put a message across clearly, structuring material so that learners can follow even the most complex arguments and explanations and using a wide range of audio-visual teaching resources are skills that new teachers need to develop. Early chapters in this book consider many of the practical and theoretical aspects of the development of lecturer abilities in lecturing; see particularly Chapters 2, 4 and 5. However, the scope of the lecture can be broadened by using ‘active learning’ strategies and encouraging students to engage more interactively



with lecture material, with the lecturer and each other in the lecture theatre. Ways in which this greater student involvement can be achieved are the foci of later chapters in the book, particularly Chapters 6, 7 and 8. The lecture remains a cornerstone of many teritiary level courses and, due to the increase in students numbers, it is likely to remain so. It doesn’t have to be as limited in learning potential as Bligh and others have observed it to be. By blurring the boundaries between teaching formats it is possible to transfer many of the interactive and more discursive teaching strategies to the lecture theatre and expand the range of learning possibilities of the lecture format. EXAMPLES FROM DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES Lectures are used in a variety of different ways in the disciplines. Their role and purpose vary depending on their frequency, position and order within a module or course. Here, some examples are given to show how colleagues are using lectures in their teaching and how they see their role changing and developing. A lecturer in psychology I was keen to increase the degree of involvement of students in their learning.To this end, I started the course with a number of lead lectures which identified the topic areas and the key research, theory and evaluative issues in each. I then divided the class into a number of small groups, for instance 10 groups of 10 students. I divided the module content into 10 chunks, one for each member of the group. This left each group with a student responsible for each area of the module. (Dr Paul Sanders, LTSNAsp/tipsbytopictest.asp?Field IDteachingproblem&searchfor Largegroups) Lecturing on the ‘Arts Today’ module [There] came [about] a re-visioning of the possibilities of the lecture form itself. Together each guest lecturer and I sought to rework the ‘talking head’ mode of delivery.We realized that with two of us timetabled during the lecture we could turn a monologue from one of us



into a dialogue between two of us and between the lectern and the auditorium. The ‘other’ person could seek clarification, question an assumption, read a piece of text, summarize an argument or directly challenge the presenter. (Haseman, in Edwards et al. 2001: Chapter 7) Active summarizing in a geography lecture It is good practice for lecturers to summarize their previous talks at the start of a fresh lecture. This places the current lecture in context and can remind students of key issues and points that need to be crossreferenced with the topic(s) about to be covered. It has been suggested that this opening period can be used to stimulate student interest through discussion of either the students’ own understanding of the material to be lectured upon or by reviewing some previous work or activity . . . (students can be asked to undertake this review process for themselves) . . . Students were formed into groups of four to eight. One student from each group prepared a written review of the previous lecture on a single sheet of paper that is presented to the rest of the group at the start of the next class for a period of three minutes. A further three minutes is devoted to group discussion. The sheet, annotated with new points, is then given to the lecturer. (Clive Agnew, Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences subject centre, abstracts/a117.htm) Feeling the constraints in curriculum design in history Limits on course planning were set by a desire not to increase staff contact hours nor to increase the number of seminar room bookings . . .They mean that we have had to have recourse to far more lecture sessions than we felt desirable measured against the goals of the course. However, learning from the approaches developed elsewhere and in educational literature, we incorporated into the course design suggestions, models and guidelines to encourage lecturers to develop interactive elements and sub-sessions within the large-lecture format. Lectures, therefore, still remain a prominent element of the course, comprising 50 per cent of staff/student contact. (Barker et al. 2000)



ADDITIONAL READING SUGGESTIONS This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Biggs, J. (1999) ‘Enriching large-class teaching’, in Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Bligh, D. (2006) What’s the Use of Lectures? 5th edition. Bristol: Intellect. Burgan, Mary (2006) ‘In defense of lecturing’, Change, November/December 2006. Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E. and Ecclestone, K. (2004) Should we be Using Learning Styles? What Research Has to Say to Practice. London: LSDA. Exley, K. and Dennick, R.G. (2004) Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Horgan, J. (1999) ‘Lecturing for learning’, in H. Fry, S. Ketteridge and S. Marshall (eds), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education:Enhancing Academic Practice. London: Kogan Page. Light, G. and Cox, R. (2001) Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: The Reflective Professional. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

USEFUL WEBSITES Effective Lecturing project is a collaboration between three universities in Scotland (Queen Margaret University College, University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow).The project aims to develop a set of educational development resources which will be used to support lectures. David Keirsey’s site offering the free ‘Keirsey Sorter’ to discover your own personality type. Strengths and weaknesses of the lecture approach explained to new teachers at the University of Kansas. The ‘DeLiberations’ site at London Guildhall University: page of links to lecturing sites.



www.s LTMlect.htm The School of Sciences, University of Staffordshire outlines the reasons for and against lecturing.


Chapter 2

Preparing to lecture

INTRODUCTION Very few new teachers are given whole new courses or modules to design, organize and facilitate.The norm is that a teaching assistant or postgraduate student will be asked to give a number of lectures on a pre-existing course. Clinicians and other professional and specialist contributors are likely to be asked to work as a ‘guest lecturer’ and provide input on a series of given specialist topics. This chapter assumes this ‘contributing to a course’ starting point. If you have a course design role too please see Butcher et al. (2006) for further guidance. A Typical Starting Point Hi Jo, we were talking last month about how it would be really good for your CV if you were able to give a few lectures during your postdoc.Well, later this semester I am scheduled to give a lecture on fungal genetics to the third years. Do you fancy doing it? They’re a nice lot and I know this is your area. This seems to be a reasonably common starting point for many new ‘lecturers’. A first reaction may be ‘Do I know enough about fungal genetics?’ Feeling confident in the material and the content of the lecture is clearly important but it is rarely the only important consideration.The chances are the new lecturer in this position already knows a lot about the topic and may only need to update or add detail and examples to his or her current knowledge. After all, they were asked to give the lecture because it is an area of interest and expertise.




What is the lecturing context? Key questions to ask

Questions about the learning context: 1

The lecture in the course


How does the lecture fit within the course/module structure?

Why is the lecture format appropriate to the learning goals?

What other forms of teaching are used on the course?

How is the course assessed?

The students in the lecture


What do your students know already?

What are your students expecting?

How else are your students studying, e.g. in seminars, from reading lists?

How will the students use, or be assessed on, what you teach?

The content of the lecture ■

What are the learning outcomes for your session?

How much flexibility do you have to select material, e.g. reading lists, examples, etc.?

What comes immediately before and after the lecture(s) you give?

Does the lecture content relate directly to other classes, e.g. seminar, laboratory or problem classes?

The challenge is much more likely to be in dovetailing the lecture with the rest of the course and integrating the ideas and information to be presented with the rest of the students’ learning.Table 2.1 suggests a series of useful questions that can help you find out more about the learning context in which you are being asked to operate. In essence the four key issues to be considered when preparing to present a lecture are: ■

The content Can you be confident and enthusiastic about the material and ideas you will be presenting? The audience What does the audience know already, what are they interested in and what do they need or want to get from the lecture?



How will the students be assessed on your lecture topic(s)? How many students will be attending? Your lecturing goals What do you wish to communicate, what are the priorities, what are the learning aims and outcomes? What are the themes and linkages that you want to make? The learning environment What is the lecture theatre/teaching room like? What facilities and equipment are available, and are you confident in operating it? Do you know about any barriers or obstacles to learning in the lecture environment? If so, can you do anything to minimize them?

FINDING OUT ABOUT THE CONTEXT A good source of background information is often the course documentation, for example module handbooks, course descriptors and validation documents, etc. These should clearly describe the learning aims and outcomes of the course and class sessions. Documents should also outline the learning and assessment approaches used on the course. Programme specification documents (QAA 2000) will detail the overall programme aims and outcomes for the degree or diploma your students are studying. These will help you to see the bigger picture of your students’ study and better understand where your lecture(s) fit. Conversations with the module convenor, or members of the teaching team responsible for the course, will also provide information about the student cohort, their level and previous experience.The person who gave the lecture last year may be available to consult and if so it is likely that he or she would be willing to lend you their lecture notes (indeed, a version of these may have been made available electronically to the students in the past). The module leader/designer will also be best able to guide you on issues of content flexibility and the required links with other teaching sessions, such as related seminars. What is the philosophy of the course, what are the strands that link elements together and what are the sequences of ideas and information that move through the module? It can also be helpful to try to see the course from the students’ perspective. By looking at reading lists, handout material or online resources, a ‘guest lecturer’ can begin to build up a picture of the experiences of the students. It may also be possible to sit in on the previous lecture or talk to a small group of students about their work on the course.




■ ■

■ ■

Do you know the learning aims and learning outcomes for your lecture(s)? Have you clarified your own teaching goals and the reasons why you are lecturing? What do you know about your students? Do you know anything about the diversity of the group, their backgrounds, their abilities, their preferred ways of learning, etc.? Do you know how much your students already know about the subject and where else this, or similar, material is studied in the course? Have you spoken with the course or module leader so that you can be made aware of any recurrent themes or shaping philosophies or ideologies in the course? Have you scanned the learning resources provided or recommended for students studying the course (including online resources)? Do you know when and how students will be assessed on the materials you are intending to present?

How are the students going to be assessed? Many strategically motivated students will be very focused on the summative assessments of the course. Do the students have ongoing course work assessments that could impact on the way they perceive the lecture? What form do the final examinations take? If the students are assessed on their ability to understand and disseminate facts and information then it is likely that they will apply the same criteria when judging the value of your lecture. However, an exam focusing on problem solving or interpretation of ideas will lead the students to value the role-modelling of these skills and abilities in the lecture. If you can, have a look at past examination papers and scrutinize any questions that test the topics you are going to be giving lectures on. THINKING ABOUT CONTENT The aim of this section is to convince new teachers that they already know most of what they will eventually communicate in their lecture. This, together with the knowledge that if teachers spend three days researching for a lecture, they then give themselves the horrendous job of reduction



when it comes to preparing a fifty-minute lecture on their gathered material. This leads directly to the most common fault made by new lecturers – having too much to say and running out of time. It is also probably accurate to assume that new teachers rarely have three days spare to prepare for every lecture they give.Therefore, purely on the grounds of workload management, it is vital to be very focused in the preparation of a lecture, particularly when it comes to researching the topic. New teachers like to feel very well prepared and may well feel vulnerable if they can’t answer every conceivable question on a topic.While thorough preparation is no doubt a good thing, teachers are definitely not expected to be living oracles and the chances are the new teacher

■ FIGURE 2.1 18

’Too much to say, too little time.’


completely underestimates their own current abilities, understanding and knowledge base. The biggest mistake most new faculty seem to make is spending too much time on preparing material for lectures. Rather than providing students with the structure for thinking about the material and including only necessary content, many new faculty try to cover too much. Many openly admitted to over preparing lectures, to having too much material to present without hurrying their lectures, and to being perfectionists beyond the level that could be rewarded in most classes. (Ronkowkski 2006 based on work by Boice 2000) THINKING ABOUT STRUCTURE AND CONTENT TOGETHER When planning a lecture it can be very useful to sketch out ideas of the content while beginning to formulate views on the overall structure of the talk. It is too simplistic to suggest that a teacher should research the content, structure the content, prepare lecture notes, produce visual aids and learning resources, rehearse and then give the lecture. Decisions about structuring the lecture and selecting the appropriate content are more often taken together, with one influencing the other. Plan to give a lecture next week on the topic Safety at your university/college. It will be a fifty minute, introductory level, lecture to first year undergraduates.Thinking about the content of this lecture, it may be appropriate to consider first what might be the key topics to include (Figure 2.2). Policy Rules and regulations

People: Safety officers First aiders


Local procedures Emergency numbers


■ FIGURE 2.2


Health risks

Personal safety Attacks on campus?


Suggested key topics to include in a first year lecture on safety.



Having spent about ten minutes noting down sub-topics it may then be helpful to begin to explore different ways in which you could organize and structure this information. Begin to think about where to start and how to grab attention. This is likely to be linked to what you think the students know already and what they need to know by the end of the lecture. Think about the flow and sequencing of one idea to the next. Identify the key messages that the students should prioritize and focus on. How many topics can be covered in the time available and, therefore, what might be grouped together or highlighted? Remember, too much detail and too many topics will detrimentally affect students’ learning (Russel et al. 1984). Learning is not committing a set of facts to memory, but the ability to use resources to find, evaluate, and apply information. . . . It is clear that active processing of information, not passive reception of information, leads to learning. That is, students must construct their own understanding of concepts, relationships, and procedures.Teachers can encourage this process by carefully considering the type and organization of information as well as instructional strategies. Specifically, teachers should reduce the total amount of factual information students are expected to memorise. (Lujan and DiCarlo 2006) A common observation is that the majority of new lecturers reduce the amount of material they attempt to ‘cover’ in a lecture the second time they deliver it! The interrelationship between content and structure can lead to completely different lectures on exactly the same material. For example,

TOP TIP . . . List all the things you think you should tell the students in your lecture and then select only half of them.You may like to consider how you could make the other half available to your students as ‘further study suggestions’. For example, as recommended reading or as online learning resources provided through a virtual learning environment such as Blackboard or WebCT.



the lecture on safety could begin with a consideration of the law and university regulations, moving on to provide lists of people who have special responsibilities for health and safety and then concluding with a description of the local emergency procedures. Alternatively, a lecture could begin with a question to the students, ‘How many ways could you have an accident in this lecture theatre?’, or ‘What are the potential dangers faced by students studying chemistry at university?’, moving on to consider how those hazards could be avoided, managed or responded to, who at the university could help the students and what the regulations and the law say on particular issues. The same key points can be presented and the same documents and teaching resources used but the two lectures would be experienced very differently by the attending students. Barbara Gross Davis suggests that it is helpful to distinguish between essential and optional material. Divide the concepts or topics you want to cover into three groups: basic material that should be mastered by every student, recommended material that should be mastered by every student seeking a good knowledge of the subject, and optional material that should be mastered by those students with special interests and aptitudes. Lectures and exams should focus on the basic elements of the course. Recommended and optional topics, labelled as such for students, can be included in lectures, supplementary materials, and readings. (Barbara Gross Davis, committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/ prepcors.htm) THE PROCESS OF PREPARATION Through practice and experience teachers find ways of writing and preparing their lectures in ways that work for them.There is no one ‘right way’ and linear methods are rarely followed absolutely. However, when starting out it can be helpful to have a suggested model to work from. Preparing a lecture: a personal approach This is an approach to lecture preparation adapted through experience from ideas originally provided by George Brown (see Brown and Atkins 1988 and Brown and Manogue 2001).



■ ■ ■

■ ■

Spend no more than half an hour reading one or two introductory-level texts or review articles on the lecture topic to refresh the memory and help begin to identify the important branches and sub-topics of the subject. Sketch out the themes of the lecture. Use lists or diagrams to group items and points and begin to think about sequencing material and the links between and interrelationship of ideas. Decide what you want the student learning outcomes to be. What will the students be able to do when they walk out of the lecture theatre at the end of the lecture that they couldn’t do before? Decide upon a lecture ‘structure’ (see Chapter 3) and calculate how much time you wish to spend on each sub-topic. Think about student attention and plan to include learning activities and a variety of experience for the students. Draw up a draft running order for the lecture that begins to include time estimates and a note of the learning resources to be used. Draw up a ‘shopping list’ of specific details and gaps in your knowledge that you would like to include in the lecture and research, and find the information that you need. Try not to get bogged down with too much detail. Look for good illustrative and relative examples. Review and make any changes to the lecture running order – have you forgotten any major themes, etc.? Build the lecture by preparing the lecture notes, learning resources, visual aids, online materials, etc. Look for attention hooks, work in attention grabbers, examples, personal anecdotes, research data, etc. Plan student activities and learning tasks, such as questions, problems, buzz groups, etc. (see Chapter 8) in detail. Include estimates of time and think through the ways that you will give instructions to the students about what you want them to do and why you want them to do it and how you will take feedback, etc. Finalize the running order sheet and the lecture notes ready to give the lecture. How are you going to evaluate your performance and your effectiveness? (See Chapter 11.)

Once you have given one or two lectures it is time to experiment with different formats for your own lecture notes.These are the notes you make



to keep you on track as you give the lecture (not those you provide for your students as handouts, etc.). As well as personal preference, it is also clear that some lecture note formats are more suited to particular disciplines or subjects than others. Here are some examples of the ways you can keep your notes: ■

A lecture outline, which is especially useful in organizing a lecture and providing an overview of general structure, subordinate points and key points. Presentation packages such as PowerPoint allow the lecturer to print off a variety of lecture outlines, which can be annotated as desired. A list of topics and major points written in running order. At a glance this highlights the lecture’s key ideas or issues to be covered but it only works if the lecturer is confident and knows the materials very well. A flowchart or tree diagram will indicate pathways through important material with optional stopovers, tangents, useful illustrations, or examples. It gives more flexibility and allows the lecturer to be responsive. Stage directions don’t just include what is to be said but also indicate how it will be covered. Such notes include delivery instructions for the lecturer and reminders about pausing, setting tasks or questions and transitions between different audio-visual aids. ‘Core’ and ‘optional’ notes are divided into two columns, the left (core) column being much wider than the right (optional). The ‘must have’ content material is listed in the left column with the optional extras indicated in the right column. An estimated ‘timeline’ is given in the margin so that the lecturer can assess, as they give the lecture, whether they have the time to include the optional extras or not. This approach allows flexibility without losing structure.

USING CONTACT TIME WELL The average student’s attention span in a lecture was estimated in the 1970s as being around twenty minutes (Johnstone and Percival 1976; Stuart and Rutherford, 1978). However, there is a growing body of evidence and feeling amongst lecturers that this may be an overestimate in today’s lecture theatres. It is therefore useful to think of preparing a lecture that limits



the formal input from the lecturer to ten to fifteen minute chunks interspersed with breaks or individual and group-based learning activities. For the first five minutes or so the class will be settling into the lecture room and into the new topic. They will be orientating themselves by remembering what has gone before in the course and thinking of the learning outcomes for today’s lecture.The teacher can aid this settling-in process by outlining the topic to be addressed and linking it to previously covered material. It is also helpful if the teacher can give the students the conceptual framework and lecture structure that they will be using, either verbally or in a handout. Most lecturers also note that their students can concentrate better in the first half of the lecture than in the second half. So plan to explain the most complicated issues or difficult points earlier rather than later in the lecture. (See Chapter 3 for more about how to structure and organize lectures.) ‘NOT REALLY MY AREA’ On occasions new teachers may be asked to give a lecture on a topic which they feel is outside their main area of expertise. Here the inclination is very strong to spend a considerable amount of time researching the topic to buoy confidence. However, rarely do we know nothing about a topic we are asked to teach and so taking stock before leaping into research can be just as useful. Consulting an expert may also help in identifying the most important points to consider in the lecture and help steer further reading and research to avoid wasting preparation time. One reward for the additional work required in these circumstances is that teachers often give a ‘better’ lecture when they are able to see the subject from the student’s perspective.When lecturing on a topic that you know very well, such as your research project, it is very difficult to remember what you once found difficult about the subject. It becomes very hard to empathize with a novice to the field and, therefore, very difficult to pitch the level of a lecture appropriately.

TOP TIP . . . Why not scan the chapter headings of textbooks written on the topic or the headings in a review article to check that you are picking up on the most important issues and topics to include in a lecture.



IN CONCLUSION When preparing lectures it pays to be strategic and use time sparingly. It is so easy to read and research more than is necessary and to end up with far too much to say. This chapter has suggested a number of ways to streamline preparation time and use it more efficiently. However, every teacher tackles this job in a slightly different way. It can be very useful to keep a note of the hours you spend and briefly describe how you are spending them when you are preparing your next lectures. This is often extremely illuminating and can help you to find the approach that suits you best and develop your own time management strategies. EXAMPLES FROM DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES – HOW DO YOU PREPARE? Preparing for a mathematics lecture Lectures provide the backbone for the module in defining the extent of topics to be covered, the level of study, and the mathematical approach to be adopted – for example whether fundamental concepts are being explored or mathematical techniques developed. A suggested framework for preparing lectures for a module is: ■

Familiarize yourself with the content and delivery of an existing module you are taking over, or similar module if new; obtain previously used lecture notes, example sheets and past examination papers. Study carefully the module requirements (e.g. module submission document), any existing schedule of topics and their weightings in terms of lecture hours; create a schedule of topics (with approximate lecture hours) and clearly identify any structural changes you envisage. Check with prerequisite modules on what knowledge and skills you might expect students to have and which you will need to cover or review. Check what outcomes, if any, are needed for follow-on modules. For each major topic, sketch out your lecture notes, examples to be used for illustrations and examples for students to work through. Handouts – decide and prepare materials that you may use within or to support the lecture. These may include:



– – – – – ■

complete sets of notes; notes giving definitions, theorems and examples; summaries of important points and formulae; references to standard text or other sources; solutions of examples (outline or fully worked).

Lecture – decide how to deliver the lecture; look for variation in approach and pace, and the types of interaction you might expect the students to use to participate. Detailed suggestions within the context of mathematics are provided by Mason (2002: 39–69).

Preparing to give a lecture on study skills to new first year students When I’m faced with a totally new topic to lecture on (new to me and not ‘knowingly’ taught to this group in this context before), I look carefully at the objectives, at the group (and in particular at their vocational or other possible interests). I then do a quick brainstorm of anything that might be useful, interesting, relevant, important, or that just happens to pass through my head at the time. I then look at how the various bits ‘fit’ – with each other, with the objectives, with the group. And I think about time available.At this stage I might try to boil the ideas down to a few essentials (not more than four or five). Then I’ll work out from there on the detailed planning. I might well want to read a bit more, follow up on things I’m not sure of, see if I can get a more appropriate angle for the group. I’d also do more checking on the context (especially if it’s a ‘one off’ slot with students I don’t know) – what are the students used to? What comes before/after (both in terms of the actual day, and that course)? Then (in an ideal world) I’d do the detailed preparation at least a couple of days before the actual lecture. (More often, it’s the night before.) Then ‘let the ideas mature’ . . . I find that once I’ve got the main work done, it’s best to leave it quietly simmering in the back of my mind. It’s often in this next period that the best ideas come that will bring things to life. An hour or two before the ‘live’ session I’ll then revisit what I’ve prepared, put in a few ‘stage directions’ on my notes, and the new ideas (usually in pen and highlighter, rather than changing the PowerPoint or OHPs, etc.), and hope for the best! Right after the session, and in the following twelve hours, is when I get the best ideas for redoing a session again another time. To ‘hold



on’ to these ideas I now have a system of using the first slide in the PowerPoint, or first lines of the main document I’ve used for the session to capture the ideas – so they are there for next time. (Dr Liz Barnett, Head of the Teaching and Learning Centre, LSE, personal communication) Preparing a microbiology lecture For a topic that is not close to my research, I begin ideally a couple of months (and often only a couple of weeks!) beforehand by considering the scope of the topic, the previous relevant knowledge and level of the students and how the two dovetail (if at all). To get fully familiar with the topic I search for both good reviews and key seminal articles usually from the last five years. In my area the former are found in trends, current and annual reviews (in genetics, biochemistry and microbiology), the latter are found in Nature, Science, PNAS and Molecular Microbiology. For a three-hour morning module session to final year undergraduates I might read about four reviews and four seminal papers to get me going. These will usually highlight a further dozen papers which I will use to get the primary evidence and experimental detail. They often also lead me into interesting but peripheral disciplines, like immunology. Here I have to decide whether the ‘medical interest’ makes it worth adding the complexity of diverse science to the lecture. I begin to draft out a PowerPoint skeleton with key milestones in the topic, drawing figures and inserting pictures of relevant samples. I try to concentrate firstly on areas of the topic where strong experimental lines of evidence show robust and well-accepted mechanisms.This gives the students something concrete to hang their learning on. Once this is done then I may weave in a few controversial areas or topics where the data hasn’t yet caught up with the possible ideas. There has to be a balance between key facts and interesting imponderables that is heavily weighted towards the former. If so then the students will feel happy that ‘they have plenty to learn for the exam’ and will discuss the imponderables. If not then they will fret that ‘nothing is certain or worked out at all’ and I would have chosen too cutting edge a topic for a lecture class. As the PowerPoint skeleton develops I look out for areas where basic knowledge of the class may be thin.This is usually due to the diversity of the degree backgrounds in the class or the fact that the students haven’t been back to a topic



since first year. I remedy this by adding a basic figure used in first-year lectures to the presentation, just so everyone can assimilate the new knowledge versus their background. Once I get to the end I review the slides to see if they make sense in their current order. Sometimes the order in which things were discovered is confusing and the whole topic needs teaching from the position of hindsight, not chronological discovery. At this point I probably have about fifty slides for a total of 2.5 hours lecturing (split by coffee breaks!). I write the summary and the aims and objectives slides at this stage, and also look for any gory or historical slide about ancient plagues that I can add to enliven the subject. PowerPoint slides are made available on the intranet at my university but the students require and demand paper handouts to annotate while lectures are being delivered. This is where the legibility of diagrams and data rears its ugly head! At this stage I print off a single A4 b/w of each slide and check the legibility.Then to save trees I photocopy-reduce these to two per page double-sided handouts; this makes for a larger and more legible version than using PowerPoint to print two slides per page in handout format as there is less blank space. This will have all taken me a substantial number of hours (I estimate at least twelve hours per hour of teaching at this level) but the good thing is that it can all be readily revamped and updated (as in my area it will need to be every year!) once laid down. I confess that when developing brand new topics for classroom-only teaching from scratch at senior student level I usually ‘straight lecture it’ for the first year or so to see how the subject goes down before trying to design interactive student-centred learning activities. I hold question and answer sessions at the end of the lecture to gauge its effect and ask for shows of hands, i.e. understanding as I go through ‘hard parts’. Although preparing lectures from areas at the edge of my scientific discipline is hard work it usually delivers the best to the students in terms of understandability as I’ve had to learn the area myself and can see where they might have difficulty . . . If I get it then so can they!! (Professor Liz Sockett, Genetics, University of Nottingham, personal communication) Preparing an economics lecture My initial thoughts when preparing a lecture are based on three questions. How long is the lecture? Which student group forms the



audience? What material is required? The first two are easy to answer but clearly shape how the last is answered.To answer it, I ask a further question: what do I want the students to leave the lecture with? If it is simply a framework of knowledge or ideas then that might lean my thinking towards preparing a ‘traditional’ lecture where I provide guidance through the appropriate material.That of course will require more direct input from me and more material. If, on the other hand, I want them to develop a means of working something out (for example, mathematical or statistical problems) then a more interactive session needs to be planned with greater emphasis on periods for them to practise the ideas outlined. Here the need is to prepare materials, such as worksheets, that students can work on in the lecture. This requires greater preparation time prior to the lecture although it does reduce direct input from me within the lecture. The desired outcomes therefore will shape the nature of the delivery of the lecture. One point I would offer at this stage is not to ignore the obvious. I do check that the lecture theatre is equipped with the audio-visual aids I need – I have turned up with a PowerPoint presentation before only to find no computer. I also check that I can get materials produced and photocopied in time – I have too many painful memories of colleagues swearing at broken down photocopiers at 8.57 am when they have a 9.00 am lecture! A wider point to consider is that the lecture I give is unlikely to be a stand-alone experience. As such, what type and range of materials and activities can the students expect after the lecture? Here I try to link back to the original module outline, the recommended reading therein and also to extensions of this such as websites, Economist articles and so forth. Remember, there might also be small group activities to support the lectures. I often deliberately leave out material in the lecture so that it can be covered in the seminar/tutorial that follows.The main purpose of this is to provide a clear link between the lecture programme and support teaching.This, however, requires that I communicate with the tutors for the module, again emphasizing the value of preparation. One thing I have done to help me in preparing lectures is to keep a teaching ‘diary’. When I began lecturing I felt I was bound to make mistakes so I decided to record what I did in lectures, including what material was covered, and then reflected on what worked and what did not. Over the years this has developed to include my teaching aims for



each session as well. Again, it is a simple thing to do but I have found it invaluable in updating my teaching each session and in developing my own skills of reflection. Finally, one point to remember – when writing and giving a lecture, just think back to some of the worst ones you had as a student and think why they did not work for you. Learning from and avoiding the mistakes of others is no bad thing! (Dr Wyn Morgan, Chair of Teaching and Learning Committee, University of Nottingham, personal communication) ADDITIONAL READING SUGGESTIONS This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Butcher, C., Davies,C. and Highton, M. (2006) provide a very useful chapter (4) on selecting teaching content and matching it to the learning outcomes for the session. Designing Learning:From Module Outline to Effective Teaching, Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education. London: Routledge. Bligh, D. (2006) What’s the Use of Lectures? 5th Edition. Bristol: Intellect. Brown, S. and Race, P. (2002) ‘Before and after lectures’, in Lecturing: A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page. Davis, Barbara Gross. (1993). ‘Preparing to teach the large lecture course’, in Tools for Teaching. Berkeley, CA: University of California. bgd/largelecture.html. Gibbs, G. and the course team (1998) Practice Guide 2: Lecturing. H851,Teaching in Higher Education Institute of Educational Technology. Milton Keynes:The Open University.


Chapter 3

Structuring and sequencing lectures

INTRODUCTION Human beings are obsessed with stories: we read novels, we watch movies and TV and we go to the theatre. Some of our earliest memories are of fairy stories, and narratives of myths and legends underpin our religions and civilizations. Most stories have the same structure: a beginning, a middle and an end:‘Once upon a time there was a prince . . . who had an

■ FIGURE 3.1




adventure . . . and they all lived happily ever after.’ Human beings clearly feel comfortable with narrative structures like this; they resonate with cognitive structures within that enable them to make sense of the world. A lecture is also a story and therefore should have a narrative structure; it too needs a beginning, middle and end. If it doesn’t have these elements it causes confusion, wastes the mental effort of the audience and leads to poor learning. A simple way to think about structuring a lecture is to use the sequence below: ■ ■ ■

Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you’ve just told them.

An alternative way to think about the beginning, middle and end of a lecture is to see them in terms of the following sections: ■ ■ ■

Context. Content. Closure.

We will go through each of these in turn and explain the various components and processes that make them up. CONTEXT What you need is a story that starts with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax. (Sam Goldwyn, US film producer) The content of a lecture is embedded and underpinned by a context. The context makes connections with other learning and provides a background from which the importance and relevance of the content to come can be supported. (The term ‘set’ is also used to describe the initial contextualization of learning, implying that a priming or setting up process is to be engaged in. However, the word ‘set’ probably has more meanings than any other word in the English language, hence the term ‘context’ is preferred.) In terms of the constructivist model of teaching (see series website, Brown 2004), the context is saying ‘These bricks are going in



this section of the wall, because we’re building this part of the house.’ It contains a number of important elements that will be described below. Mood Assuming the students are already in the lecture theatre a lecture essentially begins when the lecturer walks in through the door. Is the lecturer late? Is the lecturer rushing or relaxed? Does the lecturer take a long time setting up his or her notes and equipment? Does he or she appear to know how to use the lights and the audio-visual equipment? At what point does the lecturer acknowledge the existence of the students and make eye contact? I like to be in the lecture theatre before the students and I smile and welcome them as they arrive.This feels less daunting than walking into a full house. (new history lecturer) All of these things create a mood out of which the rest of the lecture unfolds. The lecturer should influence the mood and try to make sure it is a positive one. Therefore he or she should not be late, should already know how to use the equipment and should begin by gaining attention (see below), greeting the students in an appropriate way and making eye contact with them. If this is the first time the lecturer has met the students a brief personal introduction should be made. Remember, by not creating a positive mood a negative mood can be created by default. Also, the opening of the lecture should not be used to apologize for a lack of preparation time or for the amount of information that must be covered. Don’t begin by apologizing! Gaining attention Some lecturers feel intimidated by the noise and bustle in a large lecture theatre prior to the beginning of a lecture. Inevitably students are talking, laughing and joking and moving around. Sometimes students will ask the lecturer if they can make announcements. Provided there are not too many and they don’t take up too much time it creates a good mood if you agree to this and also goes some way to quietening the students down. Some lecturers think that by merely standing at the lectern or overhead projector they will give a signal to the students to stop talking and settle down. Unless the students know the lecturer and are used to his or her working style



this is not necessarily the case.Therefore the lecturer should take control. There should be a definite, firm and clear announcement that attention is required and the lecture is about to start.This may be repeated if necessary, increasing the firmness and the volume. Once attention has been gained, greetings and personal introductions, if needed, can be made and the lecture can begin. Introducing the topic It is mandatory to introduce the title or the topic of the lecture. ‘Thank you for your attention. The subject of today’s lecture is . . . X,Y and Z . . .’. The title of the lecture might simultaneously appear on a slide or overhead. At this point it is always worthwhile thinking how you can start with something that will grab the students’ attention. It could be a dramatic image that represents a key feature of the lecture; it might be an amusing cartoon; it could involve reading a short piece of poetry or a quotation; it could involve displaying an object or demonstrating an unusual physical phenomenon.A chemist might literally begin with a bang, but it is up to the imagination of each lecturer to try to think of something that will make the students sit up and pay attention. Activating prior learning The constructivist model of learning (see series website guide, Brown 2004) implies that learning builds upon existing understanding and that new knowledge must be connected to old. The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach accordingly. (Ausubel 1968) Hence it is important during the contextual phase of lecturing to spend a few minutes reviewing and making connections to previous work in a process known as ‘activating prior learning’.This is a way of bringing up relevant previous knowledge from memory and placing it, as it were, on the student’s mental desktop. This can be done by briefly recalling work done in the previous lecture or lectures, or knowledge that was acquired in the previous year or even at school. If appropriate and feasible it may be done by asking a series of questions that get students to recall previous knowledge.



Once prior learning has been activated connections can start to be made to the newly introduced topic. The lecturer can tell the students that in order to understand the new topic they will need to recall and use their previous knowledge.The amount of activation and the degree to which old material needs to be reviewed is a judgement that the lecturer must make. Relevance and importance Explaining the relevance of a new topic will also help connect it to the learners’ existing mental framework.The lecturer should be able to make a strong justification for the inclusion of the chosen topic in the curriculum. Communicating the relevance and importance of the topic to the students will help to activate their attention. Relevance means relevant to the overall curriculum outcomes, relevant to future careers and practice, relevant in terms of the intellectual insight and understanding of the topic. Motivation The motivation to learn is a complex psychological state influenced by many factors (see series website guide, Brown 2004). It is related to relevance and importance but also has its own dynamic. If the lecturer states that the topic is a core concept that underpins a major area of the course and that it is likely to be assessed, then students are more likely to pay attention. If the topic is concerned with an issue of practice that is very common in future employment, again the students might be more motivated to pay attention. Students can also be motivated by the enthusiasm of the lecturer for his or her subject and this is an important attribute of good lecturing practice. Outlining the structure: signposting At this point in the context the lecturer should outline the overall structure of the lecture. Different types of lecturing structure will be discussed later but it is useful if the students know what to expect as it provides a cognitive road map for what is to come. Learning outcomes Once the topic has been introduced, prior learning activated, students motivated by explaining the relevance and importance of what is to come



and the lecture structure outlined, then the lecturer should tell the students what the learning outcomes of the session are going to be.These are statements about what the student should be able to do at the end of the lecture and are essentially the ‘added value’ in terms of learning that the lecturer has provided.They are normally stated using active verbs such as list, state, describe, apply and evaluate (see Figure 1.2) (see series website guide, Brown 2004). Sessional learning outcomes are the building blocks or scaffolding of the curriculum and should be embedded within the overall course outcomes. It is important that the outcomes are achievable during the session. For example, to say that one of the learning outcomes is that the student should be able to understand the causes of World War I is dishonest. Even the professor of history doesn’t understand all the causes of World War I; maybe no one fully understands them. What is legitimate is that at the end of the session the student might be able to describe or evaluate some of the common explanations that have been put forward on the causes of World War I. A GENERIC CONTEXT Can I have your attention please? I’d like to start now. Thank you. Well, good morning everyone; I’m Dr Jones. It’s very nice to meet you all today and I’m going to be taking you for the next few lectures in this module. Today we’re going to be talking about health and safety. Here’s a picture of a man in hospital with an industrial injury which you will see could have been avoided by following straightforward guidance. Now, in order to understand health and safety you need to understand the previous work you have done with Dr Smith on hazards in the workplace. Here is a picture of a ‘hazard’ just to remind you; this is a diagram of how the hazard assessment process worked, and this is how we obtained the final formula for estimating risk of injury. Well, the concept of safety is a particularly important core concept. If you understand safety you will be able to make sense of governance and legislation issues later in the course. Also, first aid is very useful and if any of you get jobs dealing with industrial injuries you will be using a knowledge of first aid principles almost all the time. What I’m going to do in this lecture is firstly talk about how workplace hazards lead directly into health and safety.Then I’m going to give you an overview of the underlying concepts in health and safety.



Then I’m going to show you a few examples of how a knowledge of health and safety can help you solve common problems in this area, and then finally we’ll have a look at a case study to show you how you can evaluate its effectiveness in practice. At the end of this session you should be able to explain how an analysis of workplace hazards leads directly to health and safety, list and describe the main features of health and safety, use health and safety to solve some common problems and evaluate the effectiveness of health and safety in practice. Clearly these will be the type of things we’ll be sampling from you in the end of module exam. CONTENT If the context has been adequately dealt with, the students should be primed and ready to deal with the substantive content of the lecture.The content of a lecture can be ‘life, the universe and everything’, but there are some generic principles that, if adhered to, ensure that the lecture is effective.These are listed below and then explained in more detail. ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Control the amount of content. Vary the stimulus. Structure the content. Navigate your structure. Use well thought-out explanations. Stimulate thinking.

Control the amount of content One of the commonest errors that lecturers make is trying to present too much material. Slide after slide, overhead after overhead, example after example, the information pours out of the lecturer and the students end up trying to drink from a fire hose. As discussed earlier, a lecture should be an overview of a key area given by an expert who can explain core concepts and who is aware of the difficulties and pitfalls in understanding. A lecture should not be used to convey large quantities of information that can be read in textbooks or given in handouts. One of the reasons why lecturers present too much information is the erroneous belief they have that if they ‘cover’ an area of knowledge in a lecture the students will automatically learn it. This is simply not true.



Learning comes from engaging with the material in a stimulating way, not trying to memorize reams of facts passively. So how can a lecturer decide how much material to present in a lecture? Clearly the lecturer should liaise with the coordinator for the module or course in question to ensure that the overall distribution of content between the lectures has been done equitably. It should also be kept in mind that content can be learned via other means, for example self-directed learning such as reading. With this in mind the lecturer should attempt to minimize the amount of detail in the lecture and concentrate on core facts, concepts and explanations. Detail and further examples should be relegated to further reading. A useful maxim for dealing with the amount of content is: Less is more Paradoxically, the less the lecturer teaches, the more the students will understand and remember. The more the lecturer teaches, the less they will understand. Vary the stimulus One of the other major problems of lecturing is the boring, monotonous presentation that sends the audience to sleep. It is known that people’s attention span in lectures dips after about fifteen to twenty minutes (Johnstone and Parcival 1976) and that, particularly after lunch, if the lights are dim, a significant number of people in the audience will struggle to keep awake. The average lecture slot is one hour, the lecture itself being slightly shorter, allowing for students to enter and leave the lecture theatre. Students will quite happily watch a film or play for two hours or more without falling asleep so it is not merely the length of time that causes the problem.The problem is caused by exposure to a constant, unchanging stimulus: the lecturer’s monotonous, unmodulated voice; the regular display of slides or overheads that all look the same; the unstimulating presentation of information; the absence of any other presentation modality. What keeps an audience awake during a two-hour film or play are constant variations of stimulation.Writers and directors know that, just as with a symphony, a narrative that is going to grab attention has to contain fast and slow movements; it has to have drama and excitement; it has to have changes of pace. Ensuring that no one presentation method is used for more than ten to fifteen minutes without a change is a good idea.



Humour is also a wonderful mechanism for not only varying the stimulus but also helping people remember things. Lecturers can collect humorous images and cartoons that help illustrate particular points and intersperse them throughout the lecture. However, be careful! Humour to one person might be offensive to another. Be sensitive to the gender, cultural and religious differences within the student audience when using humour. See Chapter 8 for a further discussion of student activity and interactivity in lectures. Structure the content Students in general do not want to go on a ‘magical mystery tour’ during a lecture. They don’t want to be taken on a random walk through disconnected concepts and facts; they want to be able to see the relationships between ideas.The only way this can be achieved is by means of a logical and reasoned structure which acts as a framework for the main content of the lecture. Brown and Atkins (1988) list a number of ways a lecture or presentation can be structured: the ‘classical’, the ‘sequential’, the ‘problem-centred’ and the ‘comparative’. These, and further examples of structure, are outlined below.

Classical: 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 . . . This commonly-used type of structure might be found when the lecture is concerned with listing a series of related entities and describing their features or properties. For example, it might be a series of diseases with their symptoms, investigations and treatments; a series of organisms with their anatomical features; a series of political leaders with their backgrounds, policies and achievements. The overall structure might concern itself with comparing and contrasting the various entities.

Sequential: a then b then c then d . . . This is possibly the commonest type of lecturing structure, in which the lecturer goes through a simple sequence of related sub-topics that underpin the main topic and form a logical and coherent ‘narrative’ with a specific conclusion. Care needs to be taken to ensure students understand each progressive step.



Process: a then b then c then d then a There are cyclical processes to be described in biochemistry, ecology, geology, economics and many other disciplines. Using the sequence of components within the process itself will provide a logical and coherent lecturing framework.

Chronological Clearly temporal and historical sequences provide a ready-made framework for structuring lectures. History itself or the development of a scientific or technological theory or process can be structured in this way.

Spatial The spatial relationships between entities is a useful teaching framework. Anatomy and embryology can be taught in this way but other subjects involving spatial relationships such as geography, architecture or engineering can benefit from this approach. For example, in anatomy the three-dimensional structure of a limb could be described in a sequence that might build up from the skeleton, then muscles, then blood supply and nerves and finally the layers of skin and subcutaneous fat. In geography a country might be described in terms of its major cities, rivers and mountains and the relationships between them. In architecture the design of a medieval cathedral might be described in terms of the spatial relationships between its major structural features such as apse, nave and arches.

Comparative: pros and cons, advocacy and controversy Some very stimulating learning can be generated by setting up a debate between competing ideologies, concepts, methods, procedures or techniques. The lecturer can give the case or evidence for one and then shift to the other side. This is an ideal situation for student involvement and students might be asked to contribute to the debate or vote at the end. If another lecturer is available then the two sides of the argument can be delivered by two different people, turning it into a genuine debate.The technique can also be used for other dichotomous entities such as comparing the normal with the abnormal in medicine.



Induction and deduction The process by which observations, facts and evidence are synthesized together to form theories, rules and laws is known as induction. The opposite process by which theories and rules are used to predict and calculate facts about the world is known as deduction. Both processes generate inductive and deductive reasoning and can be used as the basis for structuring lectures. For example, an inductive teaching structure can be used to show how facts and evidence eventually led to the development of a theoretical framework. On the other hand, a lecture might begin with the exposition of a theory and then show how it can be used to deduce or predict specific facts about the world.The implications of these two forms of reasoning in developing explanations will be discussed below.

Problems and case studies Inductive and deductive reasoning are brought together in the hypotheticodeductive system that characterizes scientific, technical and clinical diagnostic reasoning used in problem solving. Problems and case studies are an ideal vehicle for structuring teaching episodes as they bring together conceptual understanding and reasoning with real life, relevant situations. For example, a clinician absorbs the symptoms and signs of illness during history taking and examination and, by means of induction, comes up with hypotheses about what the problem might be in the form of a set of differential diagnoses. In order to test the validity of the diagnoses and to differentiate between them, further examinations and investigations are carried out based on possible deductions from the hypotheses. On the basis of the results some hypotheses are eliminated, and so on, until a final diagnosis is arrived at.The same process is carried out by a car mechanic or electronic technician in attempting to diagnose a fault. Lectures structured around problems and case studies might come at the end of a series of more conceptually-orientated lectures but they provide a valuable opportunity to synthesize and summarize many key ideas while emphasizing important reasoning processes. Navigate your structure Having a teaching structure is all very well for the lecturer but it should also be communicated to the audience to help them navigate their way through the narrative.To a certain extent this process should have begun



during the context phase when the lecturer briefly went through the overall structure of the session. However, once into the content it is helpful to inform the students where they have been, where they are and what they should be looking at, and where they are going.This is very much like the process that occurs in a good textbook where, in addition to headings and subheadings, the author talks directly to the reader indicating, for example, that a topic has now been finished, that a new topic is to be discussed, that an important definition is being outlined or that it is now time to summarize. The terms signposts, frames, foci and links have been used to describe these navigational markers, which are discussed below (Brown and Atkins 1988).

Signposts These are statements that signal the direction you are going to take. Well, what I’m going to do in this lecture is firstly talk about how hazard analysis leads directly into health and safety issues. Then I’m going to give you an overview of the underlying concepts in health and safety. Then I’m going to show you a few examples of how a knowledge of health and safety can help you solve common problems in this area and then finally we’ll have a look at a case study to show you how you can evaluate its effectiveness in practice.

Frames These are statements indicating the beginning and ends of topics and sections. We’ve now explained how hazard analysis leads on to health and safety so let’s now look at health and safety in more detail.

Foci These are statements that highlight and emphasize key ideas, definitions and concepts. What you’re looking at there is one of the most important definitions in this particular area, so pay particular attention to it.



Links These are statements connecting to other sections of the lecture or to prior knowledge and experience. So now you can see how health and safety builds on the ideas in hazard analysis and also relates to earlier concepts you might have come across in Module X last year. Use well thought-out explanations If, as discussed earlier, a lecture is an overview of a key area given by an expert who can explain core concepts and who is aware of the difficulties and pitfalls in understanding, then explaining is one of the most important teaching and lecturing techniques and structures.This is where the lecturer can give understanding by making connections between concepts and facts. It is also about ensuring that misunderstandings do not arise and a good lecturer should be aware of common misunderstandings and how they can be avoided. A common error that novice lecturers make is assuming that because they understand something they can explain it to another without thinking about how they are going to do it beforehand.They may prepare a lecture, including some concepts or processes that need to be explained which they, as experts, are familiar with, only to discover that in the act of explaining they trip over themselves and make a mess of it.The key idea to remember is that just because you understand something doesn’t mean you can explain it to someone else. The opposite side to this, as many lecturers will testify, is that you don’t really understand something until you can explain it to someone else. Therefore explanations need to be thought through in the preparation phase of lecturing (see Chapter 2). From the constructivist model of learning we can deduce that new knowledge must connect to old to help build up understanding. Lecturers must know ‘where the students are at’ or what knowledge they already have, and must activate this prior knowledge.They must then use a variety of techniques, which will shortly be described, to make bridges from this knowledge to the new knowledge they wish the students to know.This mental ‘scaffolding’ was termed the ‘zone of proximal development’ by the Russian psychologist Vygotsky (1978). So what are the techniques that can be used to build bridges to new understanding? Learners can only use the knowledge they already have to



build new knowledge from the experiences they are having.Therefore the teacher must start with this knowledge and make use of it. If a new concept is the logical outcome of combining existing concepts, facts or evidence then the lecturer needs to ensure there is a seamless set of connections from the old to the new with no gaps or mental jumps that some students might not grasp. Brown and Atkins (1988) suggest that such explanations should follow a sequence analogous to the proof of a geometrical theorem which seamlessly starts from a set of axioms and leads on logically to its conclusion. However, sometimes a concept is so new or unusual that additional help is required. This is where analogy, metaphor and the use of concrete imagery to represent abstract concepts should be used when constructing explanations. By using and extending existing cognitive structures the lecturer can create a ‘pre-conceptual’ model from which the learner can relatively easily jump to the final concept.When constructing explanations there is some evidence that people find inductive reasoning easier than deductive reasoning. Both Piaget (1969) and Bruner (1968) looked at the development of ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ reasoning and suggested that concrete reasoning, thinking about facts and entities in the real world, precedes and is easier than abstract or highly logical reasoning, which is the highest form of human cognition. Bruner further argued that although adults are characterized by their ability to use abstract reasoning they frequently flip back down to concrete reasoning when thinking gets tough. One only needs to recall asking for a ‘concrete example’, when trying to understand an abstract concept, to appreciate how much easier it is for us to conceptualize and manipulate real entities in our mind’s eye than abstract ones. If this is the case it further reinforces the idea that explanations of complex abstract ideas should use concrete examples where possible. Lecturers should be sensitive to the fact that within any given group of students there will be a range of abilities in relation to the ease with which they can move from the concrete to the abstract. There are other individual differences, which influence the ability to deal with particular explanations, that might be found within a student audience. It is well established that students have different learning styles (see page 5 and Honey and Mumford 1982) and will be more or less attracted to different ways of learning. In addition it is further suggested that individuals are more or less dominated by their right brain or left brain. According to studies of brain localization (Springer and Deutsch 1993), the left-hand side of the brain is where logical and linguistic information is processed whereas the right-hand side of the brain is concerned with



imagery and holism. Furthermore, Gardner has suggested that we have six independent intelligences: linguistic, logico-mathematical, spatial, musical, kinaesthetic and personal, and that once again individuals are more or less dominated by particular modalities (Gardner 1993). This implies that lecturers should use a variety of audio-visual and computer-assisted aids to create illustrations which might appeal to individual cognitive differences in the student audience. Using PowerPoint it is relatively easy to create attractive animated diagrams and it is also possible to display computer simulations or digitized video through a data projector to a large audience. Such images and animations, when interspersed with text and an oral presentation, make a multi-media presentation that is highly likely to have strong explanatory power to just about everyone in the audience. Stimulate thinking The whole process of structuring, organizing and developing explanatory sequences in a lecture should aim to interest and stimulate the audience; to make them think.Without that the lecture will be merely a boring recital of facts that the students will attempt to record without any intellectual engagement.We have already discussed the structures that can be used to organize a lecture and to a large extent these should encourage thinking by the way they relate the material together into a coherent sequence.The use of appropriate explanations should also encourage thinking. However, there are many different types of thinking and the aim should be to encourage the highest level of thinking possible. Below is a list of some common thinking categories that lecturers should be aware of when planning and organizing lectures. At any point in the lecture what type of thinking are the students engaged in? ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

analysing; synthesizing; logical reasoning; hypothetic-deductive reasoning; evaluating evidence or data; appraising and judging; critical evaluation; applying knowledge to new contexts; seeing new relationships; creative speculation;



lateral thinking; designing; problem solving.

Finishing the content Before I summarize are there any questions? As the lecturer moves towards the end of the content phase of the lecture there should be a sense of reaching a conclusion in the narrative process. The main arguments and explanations should have been put forward and the students should have been able to achieve the learning outcomes set out in the context phase. However, there may still be some students who haven’t understood every single point or who have been stimulated to think of some questions. The tradition has been to summarize the lecture and then ask:‘Are there any questions?’ However, experience shows that once students see that the lecture is being summarized they mentally disengage and will start to pack away their pens and notepads.The majority of students now want to leave the lecture theatre and the last thing on their mind is to ask questions. Therefore it is appropriate that at this point the lecturer states: Before I summarize the key points of this lecture there are a few minutes left for you to ask any questions you might have. If there’s anything you haven’t quite understood or if there’s anything that you’d like an answer to, put up your hand and I’ll be pleased to try and answer. Students might also be encouraged to go through their notes looking for gaps or missing information. One technique is to ask the students to note down individual lecture summaries for themselves before the lecturer recaps. This activity not only encourages students to participate in the process, but it can also provide the teacher with some feedback on how well the students have understood. Final questioning should be seen as part of the content. (Of course, depending on the nature of the lecture and the lecturer, questioning might already have been a feature of the proceedings. Here we are assuming a ‘conventional’ lecture where questions are left, more or less, to the end. We will discuss the method of ‘active lecturing’ in Chapter 8.)



The lecturer may also want to give additional information to the students at the end of a session. See Table 3.1 for some suggestions. CLOSURE And they all lived happily ever after. As discussed above, the end of the content should include the conclusions reached and the ‘take-home’ messages. The closure phase should summarize the key points that arose during the presentation. A useful way of doing this is to show the learning outcomes that were the focus of the lecture. Going through each one and emphasizing that they have been achieved is an easy way to summarize.Then any conclusions reached can be mentioned yet again for emphasis. However, it is also helpful during the summary of the outcomes to revisit some of the motivational ideas mentioned during the context phase. Now that the students have achieved the outcomes they should leave the lecture theatre with a sense of achievement and feeling confident that they can now do the things promised earlier. Furthermore, they should now be motivated to engage in independent study. TABLE 3.1

Final remarks – points a lecturer may wish to make at the end of the session

And finally . . . ■

Sources of further information and additional reading;

how to contact the lecturer with queries;


links to VLEs or web-based course support mechanisms, e.g. ‘You can find the full reading list on Blackboard and ten quick self-test questions so that you can check your own understanding’;

reminders of work deadlines or course assessment requirements;

links to support tutorials or practical/laboratory sessions, e.g. ‘Today we have looked at the theory. Tomorrow morning you will have the chance to experiment with the variables in the lab’;

thank the students for attending. ‘Thanks very much for working hard today. Have a good weekend and I will see you back here for part two next week’



EXAMPLES FROM DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES General practice Whenever I plan a session now I always start by thinking what learning outcomes I want the students to achieve. Once I’ve nailed that I work backwards and everything else usually falls into place. (General practice lecturer) Nursing I’ve gradually realized the importance of explaining the relevance and importance of what I’m lecturing on at the beginning. I normally make presentations to ten or twenty people at a time so the group is small enough for some interactivity, even though it’s really a lecture. But I do notice how people pay more attention and seem to be more interested if I’ve explained how they’ll be able to use the knowledge I’m imparting. (Nurse practitioner lecturer) Biochemistry We all have to give the students learning objectives (outcomes) now for each session and they go up on the Networked Learning Environment and form part of the curriculum map. At first I thought it was just more work and imposing meaningless educational ideas on us. But over the years I’ve realized that having them really does clarify my teaching and focuses what I do and I’ve changed them around quite a bit and made sure they fit with the assessment system. However, it sometimes worries me that that’s all the students will learn now; just the learning objectives. I’d like them to read around the subject more and do more than just the bottom line but I suppose I’m old fashioned. We never had learning objectives when I was at university; we used to work out what to learn by using past examination papers. (Biochemistry lecturer) Chemistry It’s true what they say about not really understanding something until you’ve taught it. I remember a few years ago when I’d just started



lecturing being in an Honours lecture and completely seizing up in the middle of an explanation of a particular process. I’m not sure if the students actually noticed it. I went away afterwards and really looked at it and thought about it until I felt I could explain it. Now I can do that explanation OK. It made me realize that you can get away with bad explanations to students half of the time because they think they can’t understand it because they’re not clever enough.They never think it’s your fault. (Chemistry lecturer) FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Brown, G.A. and Atkins, M. (1988) Effective Teaching in Higher Education. London: Routledge. Brown, S. and Race, P. (2002) Lecturing:A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page. Egan, M. (1997) WouldYou Really Rather Die Than Give a Talk? New York, NY: Amacom. Race, P. (1999) 2000 Tips for Lecturers. London: Kogan Page.

USEFUL WEBSITES Robert and Mary Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Centre. The ‘Giving Effective Lectures’ page gives links to ‘Suggestions for Effective Lecture Preparation and Delivery’ in the Teaching Resources Guide produced by the Instructional Resources Centre at the University of California, Irvine.


Chapter 4

Using your voice effectively and projecting a confident self INTRODUCTION This chapter is about good use of the most important communication tool we have – the voice. Often forgotten in a discussion of audio-visual aids, it remains our most valuable lecturing device and tutors need to learn how to look after their voice, project properly and consider how to use it to best effect in the lecture.Too quiet, mumbled and poorly articulated, too fast, monotone – the common criticism relating to voice use are easily recognizable and this chapter sets out some straightforward guidance on how best to avoid these lecturing pitfalls. The chapter then goes onto consider how we choose to project ourselves when giving lectures and considers how to convey the impression we wish to make. USING YOUR VOICE EFFECTIVELY IN A LECTURE We talk all the time (some more than others!) but lecturing is different. In trying to project our voice and make ourselves understood in a large lecture theatre, with challenging acoustics, we use the voice quite differently.The kinds of delivery problems commonly observed in lectures are: ■ ■ ■


getting the pace of delivery wrong; using a monotone and flat delivery that doesn’t hold attention and bores the students; the volume and clarity of intonation dropping off, particularly towards the end of sentences;


the failure to use emphasis and pauses to stress important points and punctuate delivery; regional or national accents that obscure meaning for some students, particularly those from overseas or those who have hearing difficulties; looking down or at the board or screen, reading from notes or from a computer screen and not facing the students when addressing them.

PACE OF DELIVERY Perhaps the most common problem experienced by many new teachers is getting the speed of delivery wrong, and in many cases that means talking too quickly.This is often associated with nerves and therefore may be much more pronounced at the beginning of the lecture. It may also be associated with having too much to say in the time available and having to speed up towards the end.This is actually a problem to be addressed in preparation. However, some people do slow down and seem to labour points or become very hesitant and apparently ‘unsure’ in their delivery. Trying to get a good pace and flow to the lecture is clearly important and may take a little time and practice to get right. Do you know your own demons? If you don’t it is very helpful to video yourself when giving an explanation, or to record your voice while lecturing and then to critically review your oral delivery.Alternatively, ask a colleague to observe one of your lectures and ask them to watch your students’ reactions (can they keep up?) and to give you feedback on pacing. THE SPOKEN WORD There are differences between the spontaneous spoken word and reading from a written text or script.These differences stem from clear differences in the forms of written and spoken language (Chafe and Tannen, 1987). It is easier to listen and understand when the lecturer speaks in shorter sentences in which the subject and the verb are near the beginning of the sentence. Multi-layered sentences with lots of semicolons or ‘ands’ make it more likely your students will mishear and misunderstand. Longer and more complex sentences may also be much more difficult for the lecturer to say fluently. Reading from notes, a script or a computer screen also prevents lecturers from keeping a good level of eye contact with the



audience and can give the impression that they are ‘talking to themselves’ rather than communicating with their students. FORMING WORDS AND SENTENCES Very simple words can suddenly become tongue-twisters in the mouth of a nervous lecturer and so it is important to think about the language you choose and try to avoid, where possible, the words you find difficult to pronounce (especially at the beginning of your talk). If difficult words are unavoidable it can be helpful to make a point of pausing before tackling them, and if appropriate make a feature of writing them on the board so that students have the correct spelling.The students will therefore use both the visual and the oral communication to gain understanding and clarity and it helps to take the pressure off the speaker. Using humour may also help here; you can comment that this is a bit of a tongue-twister or invite the students to have a go at saying it too. These are all tactics aimed at reducing the emphasis on the ‘performance’ of the lecturer. How much the lecture feels like a theatrical event will clearly depend on the size of the lecture, the material being presented and the student and staff expectations but it will also depend upon your personal and preferred style of lecturing. LOOKING AFTER YOUR VOICE Straining your voice to make yourself heard in a full and bustling lecture theatre; talking without a break for one or two hours at a stretch; doing this daily in October after a summer away from the lecture theatre – it is no wonder that many of the voice and throat problems (e.g. laryngitis and nodules on vocal folds) that are taken to doctors’ surgeries and hospitals belong to teachers and lecturers. What can affect your voice? ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■


temperature; dry and dusty conditions (even air-conditioning); drinking caffeine rich and alcoholic beverages; coughs and colds; being tired; eating a large meal (especially spicy or dairy products) prior to the lecture; hormonal changes (such as those caused by pregnancy);


stress and upset (for example, caused by bereavement); tension or depression.

Voice coaches advise that you should lubricate your vocal folds (vocal cords) when you speak, so taking a glass of still water into the lecture theatre with you is important. Before giving a lecture, relax and gently stretch out the muscles around your shoulders and neck to prepare the muscles in your throat. Some teachers may also warm up their vocal folds – a commonly used voice exercise is to run through vowel sounds a few times (A, E, I, O, U), and for each letter exaggerate the pronunciation and movements of the mouth. Things to avoid: ■ ■ ■ ■

■ ■ ■ ■

smoky environments; forced whispering (talk normally but gently); excessive throat clearing and coughing; keeping central heating on overnight when you are sleeping (put a bowl of water under your room radiator or a damp cloth on it – this will increase the humidity and stop your throat drying); sucking lots of medicated and menthol throat sweets – these may mask discomfort and you run the risk of doing more damage to your voice; too much shouting; gargling – this can irritate your throat; speaking when you are running out of breath; cheese and wine the night before a big lecture.

COMMON PROBLEMS IN VOCAL DELIVERY When presenting or lecturing it seems there are a number of common problems we face. Our delivery can sound ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

trembly; aggressive; monotonous; breathless; timid; bored; unconvincing, or even untruthful.



Take a moment to consider if any of these problems affect your voice when lecturing.

PROJECTING YOUR VOICE When lecturing, try to keep your chin and neck at a comfortable and relaxed 90 degree angle to help avoid tension and strain (for the same reasons, it is bad for your voice to cradle a telephone under your chin and chat for hours!). To help achieve this find two or three friendly faces in the audience of students and try to move your eye contact around the lecture theatre. Avoid looking down at your notes, or shoes, for too long and try not to crane your neck upwards in very steep lecture theatres. Find your poise and balance. Most speakers find this more easily if they stand up straight with their shoulders down and slightly back.This opens up the chest, making it easier to breath effectively. Put your weight on both feet, comfortably spaced at around shoulder width. Finally, relax and soften your knees. To avoid the dreaded monotone, consciously try to vary pitch. One suggestion is to alter pitch whenever you make a new point. Pauses can also help by naturally measuring and varying speech patterns. Our voices are carried on an exhaling breath, and attempting to speak in long sentences or too hurriedly results in gasping and breathlessness. If this starts to happen, take your time and pause to take a couple of deeper breaths before continuing. Avoid shouting and raising your voice to get students’ attention. For example, if you organize an ‘in-class’ discussion or buzz group (see Chapter 8), agree with the students, before they begin their conversations, how you will interrupt their discussions and be ready to resume your lecturing input. For a large group it may be better to choose a visible signal that it is time to stop talking – for example, flicking the light switch or turning the projector light back on. The steady pace of your delivery and your clear enunciation will do more to let your students hear and understand you than the increased volume of your speech, i.e. speak more clearly and slowly rather than just more loudly. If we avoid looking at our audience, drop the volume of our voice, touch our face and cover our mouths we can appear as if we don’t really believe what we are saying or are being untruthful. Presenting in this unconvincing manner can best be avoided by maintaining good eye contact and being



assured in the lecture material.This may involve rehearsal or practice.Why not watch yourself in a mirror or, better still, video yourself to see how you are coming across. A very common reaction to seeing oneself is the surprise that you look much less nervous than you felt and that your spoken voice sounds much faster on the recording than it did in your head when you were actually speaking. If you worry about being heard in large lecture theatres because your voice is naturally quiet and soft, use a microphone. Many large halls are equipped with these but even if they aren’t you can contact your audiovisual service department and they will be able to provide you with a portable radio microphone system to use. Radio mikes allow freer movement, too, and would not mean that you have to stay rooted to the spot by a microphone wire.A radio mike usually consists of a small transmitter pack that slips into your pocket and a little microphone that clips to your clothes near your collar. It’s a good idea just to think about what to wear if you are using such a microphone so that it clips easily and comfortably. The transmitter, when turned on, sends a signal to a receptor unit which again can be turned on and off as required and adjusted for output volume. A quick check of the technology before you begin is a must and asking a colleague to check the sound from the back of the classroom is very desirable. FINDING A PERSONAL STYLE I always feel as though I have to make everything larger than life. I seem to slightly exaggerate the way I talk and even the way I move and point to things.The bigger the lecture, the more I feel like I’m acting. (New teacher in law) When reading about teaching and learning and relating it to how you give a lecture it is important to develop your own style. Observing others teaching, thinking about role models and remembering what we have found helpful in lectures can help formulate ideas of how we would like to lecture. However, it is important to work to our own strengths and to incorporate techniques and practices that best suit the material, the context and that personal style. Some lecturers may comfortably crack jokes or show cartoons to very good effect; others may wish to run their lectures solely around interactive activities such as exercises or open discussions. Some use music to help create a particular atmosphere, to give their students a relaxing break or



to emphasize a learning point. Some teachers work exclusively from their visual aids and handout material and prefer to stick to the ‘lecture plan’ while others build in greater flexibility and are happy to work more spontaneously in parts of their lectures. Some people are more extrovert than others. Choosing to ask your students to do a football-style ‘Mexican wave’ to demonstrate how nerve synapses work may not suit everyone’s personal style.You have to find your own, without it curtailing your ability to innovate and experiment occasionally. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t often tell jokes, don’t choose the moment when you are standing in front of 200 first year students, on a Monday morning, to try and tell one. Allow your personal style to develop as your confidence grows. Experiment with approach and monitor the reaction and impact they have on your learners (see Chapter 11). MAKING THE RIGHT IMPRESSION Dress codes Many lecturers feel more confident and comfortable if they adopt a particular dress code when they lecture.A number of experienced teachers attending a teaching and learning workshop were asked how they dress to lecture: I always put on a jacket; it makes me feel ready and professional. When I lecture to the medics I don’t wear my jeans.They have to look smart when they work on the wards and in the clinics and I feel I should do the same for them. Some of my colleagues wear a suit to lecture in, but I want to look more approachable so I tend to go for smart but casual. When I get nervous I blush down my neck, so I always wear a shirt with a fairly high collar to hide this – it makes me feel a bit more confident. My evening MBA students always arrive in suits, straight from work. I feel the need to dress accordingly – it’s about credibility I think.



Introductions How often are we told that first impressions count – in meetings, in interviews and also in teaching? When you observe lectures you will notice that the way people begin says much about their personality and their values. However, introductions do vary depending on context – a formal ‘Hello, I am Dr Green from the history department’ may be appropriate for a large first year class. The same teacher may choose to use ‘Good morning. I’m Jo and I will be taking your next three lectures’ for a smaller final year class or in an evening lecture with mature students. How formal or informal we wish to be also depends on our own experience and culture. A very new, young teacher may choose a slightly more formal style to help them feel more confident and maintain an appropriate teacher–student boundary.A teacher who has studied overseas in a more formal education system may find the lack of clear ‘rules of engagement’ quite daunting at first and again a helpful way to gain insight and help you judge what is expected is to observe colleagues and pick up clues about the social norms in your school or department. A FINAL THOUGHT The way that we speak and present ourselves to our students conveys much about our views, values and principles. In the large group teaching environment we are not able to tailor our approach to meet individual requirements but we can convey our enthusiasm for our subject and respect for our learners. If we are successful in this it is likely that we will find our students very tolerant of our minor foibles or little glitches in delivering the lecture.

REFLECTION POINT How do you want to come across to your students? Just take a moment and make a note of four or five adjectives that describe the way you would like your students to ‘see’ you in the lecture. Now consider how you can begin to convey these attributes in the first few minutes of your lecture, i.e. in the ways you introduce yourself and the lecture.



FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Brown, S. and Race, P. (2002) ‘What Can You Do in Your Lectures?’ in Lecturing: A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page, pp. 62–79. Davies, G.D. and Jahn, A.F. (2004) Care of the Professional Voice: A Guide to Voice Management for Singers,Actors and Professional Voice Users, 2nd edition. London: A & C Black. Massey, A. (2008) ‘Looking after your teaching voice’ ATRES-voicecare-2008.pdf.


Chapter 5

Handling nerves, anxieties and discipline problems INTRODUCTION Lecturing to large groups of students can cause the adrenaline to rush in the most experienced of lecturers, and for the new teacher the prospect can cause anxiety or even fear.This aspect of lecturing often receives very little attention but when considering the skills needed to give a good lecture it is clearly important. Gardner and Leak (1994) identified public speaking as the most common trigger of teaching anxiety.Therefore some ideas about how to manage nerves and control their impact on your effectiveness to teach are discussed here. Closely associated with increases in lecturer anxiety are fears that the students may behave badly.Although still relatively uncommon, discipline problems, particularly in large lectures, do seem to be on the increase. So this chapter also looks at issues of discipline in the lecture and considers ways of avoiding and dealing with these problems. NERVES AND ANXIETIES For most of us this isn’t a case of getting rid of our nerves but bringing their effects under control. Some of the world’s greatest performers admit to suffering from ‘stage fright’, even though they have appeared on stage thousands of times, but their audiences are completely unaware of the fact. It is well documented that university teachers also feel high stress and anxiety levels associated with their teaching activities (Blix et al. 1994).The knowledge that you are not alone and that it is perfectly understandable and ‘normal’ to feel nervous may help – a little. Some trainers in public speaking also claim that the slightly flushed face and sparkling eyes of the ‘reasonably’ nervous speaker can actually heighten




Common symptoms of nerves

When anxious or nervous it is common to experience: ■

dry mouth;

sweaty hands;

cold hands;

trembling fingers and hands;

nausea and butterflies in the stomach;

heart racing;

shaky knees;


stuttering and jumbling words.

their attractiveness – which may help a little too? However, the same cannot be said for a shaking, blotchy, sweaty and stumbling presenter, so there must be moderation in all things. People do react very differently to their nerves and the starting point for many new teachers in learning how to handle theirs is to ‘know themselves’.What happens to you when you get pre-‘stage fright’? It may be that you experience some of the common symptoms of anxiety listed in Table 5.1. REASONS FOR ANXIETY There are several commonly cited reasons for feeling nervous about presenting or lecturing.The main ones are: ■


Lack of confidence Will those in the audience know more about the topic? Are others better presenters? Strange place to be Most people do not spend a great deal of time speaking formally in front of others. It is not part of everyday experience to stand in front of two hundred students in a tiered lecture theatre.


Sense of vulnerability You are up there alone and are the centre of attention; the audience may be judging your ‘performance’. When put this way it would be unusual if you didn’t feel a little exposed and isolated. Feeling self-conscious You may feel shy about your accent, the pitch of your voice or your image more generally. Fear of making mistakes Many speakers worry that they will forget what they wanted to say, or stumble over their words.You may worry about not wishing to offend people, using politically incorrect language or just saying the ‘wrong’ thing.

STRATEGIES FOR CONTROLLING NERVES Controlling nerves generally involves two simple strategies; hiding their effect and reducing their symptoms. Hiding the effects of nerves ■

If your mouth goes dry take in a glass of water to sip. Still water at room temperature is better than ice-cold sparkling water (which can trigger coughing and hiccups). If you know your neck always flushes scarlet when you are anxious or embarrassed, wear loose, comfortable clothing that covers this. If you know your hands shake don’t hold sheets of A4 notes that amplify the tremble.

Reducing the effects of nerves ■ ■ ■

Develop breathing techniques to calm anxieties and help with butterflies and hammering hearts. Eat a small amount of food to avoid nausea. Practise the start of the lecture thoroughly to avoid muddles and stutters.

There is also much that can be done to reduce the sources of anxiety.



BEFORE THE LECTURE Aim to be kind to yourself and remove as many of your causes for concern as possible. Be comfortable in the lecture theatre, know how to use the equipment provided, organize your teaching materials and notes systematically and be confident in your preparation and knowledge of the subject content. Find a way of preparing and practising your lecture that helps you. There are no hard and fast rules but some lecturers like to: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

learn their introduction; practise without notes, using key words or visual aid prompts; rehearse in front of a mirror; have a full run-through of the lecture in the teaching room or lecture theatre; ask a friend to watch a ‘dry run’ and give them feedback; video themselves – although this option does sound quite daunting it can be very beneficial, as it may show you that although you may feel nervous inside, on the outside you look absolutely fine.

I actually talk to myself in the car driving into work. Although I do get the odd strange look from other drivers at traffic lights it really helps me to formulate easy sentences to say and to plan my opening remarks. (Teaching assistant in biology) It is also very helpful to find out as much as you can about your student audience.What are their interests and motivations? What possible concerns and difficulties may they have? Are you likely to get disruptive students, latecomers or interruptions? Have you thought through how you might handle any of these difficulties if they occurred? TAKING SOME OF THE PRESSURE OFF It can also be helpful to remind yourself of the purposes of the lecture. You are up there trying to help your students learn, not to give an Oscarwinning performance.You are trying to communicate with your students. You are having a conversation with them, and in conversation people regularly make mistakes and correct themselves, continuing without causing any major impact at all. If you can rethink your ‘lecturing role’ from being one of ‘public speaking’ to that of talking with your students,



you are likely to be less pressured and you will probably express yourself more freely. If you feel that you are a particularly shy person, or the thought of giving a lecture makes you feel shy, you can ‘pretend’ to be more confident.Your students will not know that you are only pretending and it will actually put them at their ease if they don’t have to worry about you. I realize what I do: I borrow bits of other people. I really admire Sarah; I love the way she presents. She looks relaxed and confident and calm. I try and pinch a bit of that, try to be a bit more like that. (A nurse practitioner) Experienced lecturers often comment that they adopt a slightly ‘larger than life’ persona when giving a big lecture.This can sometimes feel a little like a performance or acting on a stage where gestures and actions need to be larger; the voice needs to be projected with greater clarity; pointing to visual aids needs to be exaggerated, etc. Pretending to be that eloquent and confident lecturer is a small part of this. IMMEDIATELY BEFORE THE LECTURE The half hour before the lecture starts is likely to be the most stressful for a new teacher. Some lecturers like to shut themselves away in a quiet space to think through their notes calmly. Others like to keep themselves busy and occupied right up to the start time.What works best for you? DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE For 99.9 per cent of our life we don’t think about the act of taking one breath after another, and suddenly, just as you are about to begin your lecture, it becomes a problematic activity.When nervous, many speakers take shorter, gasping breaths and, when beginning to speak, may attempt to produce sentences that are far too long, causing them to run out of breath halfway through. Close your eyes and put your hand on your stomach and simply think about breathing in and out slowly and satisfyingly deeply; breathe in through your nose and out through your nose and mouth. This can be a very calming technique. Table 5.2 gives some tips on how to breathe properly when presenting and is taken from guidance to students at the University of Pennsylvania.




Guidance from the University of Pennsylvania on correct breathing technique

Breathing correctly when presenting ■

Your voice rests on your breath. Inhale before you begin to speak and support your words with your breath as you exhale. (When you are at rest, you inhale and exhale for roughly the same amount of time. When you speak you inhale quickly and exhale slowly).

Inhale between sentences and phrases, and don’t wait until you are completely out of breath to inhale.

Your breathing may slow or increase due to nervousness. These changes can physiologically exacerbate feelings of anxiety. If you notice that you are nervous, dizzy or your thinking is cloudy, take several deep breaths. Make sure that you continue to breath at an appropriate rate.

Develop awareness of tension in your throat, chest and stomach. Tension interferes with your breath and your voice.

Increase the volume of your voice by increasing the amount of breath that supports your voice.


RELAXATION TECHNIQUES Tension seems to collect in hot spots around the body, and the shoulders and neck region seem to be particularly affected. Simply hunching your shoulders up and gently tensing the muscles and then pulling them downwards, breathing out and relaxing them, can really help calm you if you are anxious. A second area of the body that also obviously shows the symptoms of nerves is the knees, which tend to ‘lock out’ and hold the lecturer’s body stiffly and awkwardly when the body is tense.When beginning to present it is helpful to check your knees and ‘soften’ them by relaxing them and letting them bend very slightly. The body can then find a more relaxed posture and natural balance. It is also important to relax your voice.You can loosen up your vocal cords by humming up and down the musical scale or going through vocal sounds: A, E, I, O, U.



PROGRESSIVE (MUSCLE) RELAXATION Dr Edmund Jacobson first described a technique of deep muscle relaxation in 1929. The method involves focusing on different muscle groups, contracting them and then consciously letting them relax. Start by squeezing your toes and feet for a count of about ten, then relaxing them. Repeat the squeeze and relax sequence in your lower leg and then continue to work up your body, going slowly and moving from one body part to the next. As you let go of tension in each muscle group, continue to relax the muscles that you’ve already relaxed so that you can feel the wave of relaxation rising in your body.This full body approach to relaxation is often used at the end of a workout or yoga session too. (See Chapter 4 for further discussion about using and protecting your voice.) THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES The very beginning of the lecture is the most difficult for the teacher. Getting going can be hard but once you have found your voice and rhythm you will forget your nerves very quickly.To help get over this initial hump you might find some of the following useful. Surviving the first few minutes ■

■ ■

■ ■

If possible, be in the lecture room before the students arrive so that you can welcome them and see them as individuals rather than a crowd. Say something inconsequential to begin with, just to hear how your voice sounds in the room and to check it is working properly (e.g. ‘Good morning. Can you hear me OK up at the back?’). Show a visual aid early in your lecture; the students will look at it rather than at you, which will help you to feel less exposed. Find three or four students with friendly faces across the audience who will smile at you and encourage you to keep eye contact with them. Avoid holding notes or pointers that exaggerate wobbles and shakes. If your knees or legs tremble, lean on the lectern or table. It can also help to shift your weight from one foot to the other or walk around a little.



The vast majority of speakers find their ‘presenting stride’ quickly and never look back through the lecture.Very rarely indeed, lecturers will lose their place and forget what is to be said next.This may happen if something has distracted them, for example a student has arrived late, or asked a question, or a mobile phone has rung. It can be reassuring to the nervous presenter to prepare for this happening, as the fear of mind blanking is much more common than the reality. IF YOUR MIND DOES GO BLANK The key here is to have your lecture notes in a format that is easy to navigate and move through. People new to lecturing often want to have full lecture notes and some even like to work from a script of sorts. However, once the lecture has begun, the speaker may glance at these notes only rarely, feeling happy that they exist but not really needing to refer to them. So if the lecturer’s mind does go blank it is likely that the notes will be out of order with the run of the lecture. It is therefore important to be able to move quickly through the notes and find yourself again speedily. Using small index cards with key words marked in different colours and numbering visual aids may help. Using the notes section of the PowerPoint package to hide speaking notes can also provide this support. If you prefer to move around the room and write comments on a flipchart or whiteboard, it can be useful to hide notes around the teaching ‘stage’ area so that you know there are backups if you lose your thread. In one class I write up a list of the stages in a pathway and explain each stage as I go. So I don’t forget any, or get them in the wrong order, I make a note of the first letter of each stage on the folded over back page of the flipchart. Only I can see them when I stand up to write. I have always remembered them but it puts my mind at ease just to know they are there. (Demonstrator in biochemistry) IT REALLY DOES GET EASIER The more you do it the easier it gets, and while a small dose of adrenaline is likely to improve your ability to give a good lecture, debilitating anxieties do not. So it is good advice to encourage new teachers actively to seek out opportunities to give lectures and presentations and build up their confidence through experience.After all, it is experiences outside the norm



that usually cause stress, rather than familiar situations. (See Chapter 11 for further guidance on how to learn from your lecture evaluations to improve and develop your skills.) ISSUES OF CONTROL AND DISCIPLINE Many teachers never encounter disruptive, rude or aggressive students throughout the whole of their teaching careers. However, occasionally an individual, or a particular class of students, can challenge a lecturer through their behaviour and actions.The most common minor difficulties are to do with students arriving late and disrupting the class, mobile phones ringing in the middle of the lecture and students gossiping and texting each other on the back row.These behaviours can be irritating and off-putting and it is worth nipping this rudeness in the bud. How this is done will depend very much on the teacher’s confidence and personality. For example,Teacher A confronts the situation head-on and directly: I do not like mobile phones going off in my lecture. Please make sure you have turned yours off now.You will be asked to leave if it rings in my class. Teacher B appeals for the students’ understanding and empathy: I find mobile phones going off in the lecture very off-putting and I often lose my train of thought. Remember how you feel when you are giving your seminar presentations and please turn your phones off now. Teacher C uses the groundswell of class opinion: Last week our lecture was disrupted by two mobile phones going off in class and I had a number of students complain to me about this. Please respect your colleagues’ rights to study in my class and make sure that you have turned your phones off. Teacher D uses humour to defuse a tense situation when a student actually answers a phone call in the lecture: Hey can I have a word . . . Oh hello John’s mum, very sorry but John is in my lecture at the moment and he is a bit busy. Can he call you back later? Thanks. Bye! OK everybody – let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again, shall we? You never know who I may end up talking to.



It is important and will give you extra confidence, to remember that your students generally want you to be in control. Indeed they may well feel frustrated with you if you fail to ‘grasp the nettle’ and challenge disruptive behaviour. It is likely that the majority of your students will follow your lead and support your measures to address the minority of students who are affecting the majority’s ability to study. However, it is generally best to avoid confrontation in the lecture theatre and certainly important not to lose your temper and professionalism.The spectacle of a furious lecturer embarrassing or fiercely reprimanding a student will not win respect. How the disruption affects the lecturer is worth considering at this stage – how does it make us feel? Some lecturers will feel anger towards the difficult student(s), others may feel intimidated and yet others may feel that they are, in some way, to blame for what is happening – ‘What have I done to cause this?’ Managing the difficult situation involves managing ourselves – we are an integral part of the situation. Lecturers gain and keep control in a lecture through a variety of means: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

their reputation for effort, interest, and enthusiasm for teaching; their reputation for fairness; their knowledge of the topic, the equipment and the course; focusing on the given learning outcomes and what the students need to learn; responding promptly and fairly to challenges to their authority.

Remember, reputations take time to build but can be quickly lost. A POLICY AND CONTEXT VIEW In deciding how to respond to challenging student behaviours, Baume (2004) reminds us to check out what is possible and what would be considered an acceptible response by our teaching colleagues. If you have any reason to anticipate discipline problems in your lectures you should find out – ■ ■ ■


Is there a ‘behaviour’ policy in the school? Is there a system of recording ‘bad behaviour’ in the school? Would you be supported by the school if you actually asked a student to leave?


Would you need to report such an incident – and who would you report it to? What would be the consequences of asking a student to leave?

Being aware of any response constraints before you step into the lecture theatre is very important.You could potentially go beyond the rights and powers given to you by your school and this could yield further problems outside the lecture. CHATTING AT THE BACK Probably the most common of the minor discipline problems we face as lecturers is the pair of students chatting. The odd thing is, they probably don’t even realize that you can hear them, let alone that you might

■ FIGURE 5.1

Disruption at the back of the lecture hall.



consider it disruptive. Students can feel almost invisible in a large lecture theatre and don’t know that, from the front, you have a wonderful view of everybody, including them. So they are chatting, what are your options? Baume (2004) suggests we have a range of responses to consider: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Ignore it? Stop talking, wait for silence. Pointedly look at the chatterers and wait for silence. Reduce your volume. Talk louder. Politely address the chatterers. Wait a little then ask the chatterers a question. Confront the chatterers directly. Scale-up, ‘threaten’ more drastic consequences (but you do need to be prepared to carry through).

JUST TAKE A MINUTE . . . What are the pros and cons of each of the options? Which is your preferred option, and why?



Ignore it This may be the best solution if you feel you really are the only one being bothered by it and it is irritating rather than off-putting. However, if you can hear it, the chances are other students can too and it is probably distracting for them. Ignoring it may also indicate to other students that chatting in the lecture isn’t a problem – and may encourage others to do so. Stop talking, wait for silence A very effective strategy especially if you appear ‘stopped in your tracks’ so to speak. Breaking off mid-sentence and exaggerating the impact it has on you lets students know just how ‘visible’/‘audible’ they in fact are. Not picking out or on the chatterers also gives them the benefit of the doubt – they didn’t mean to disrupt.


Pointedly look at the chatterers and wait for silence This may be the best option if you feel the chatterers do fully know what they are doing and are being actively rude. Usually other students will follow your gaze and bring additional peer pressure to bear. Reduce your volume A very useful way of mobilising that peer pressure. As attentive students strain to hear about a babble of background chattering they are more likely to ask other students to be quiet – a ‘sh sh’ will go around the room. Talk louder This may be an effective way drowning out the noise of the chatters and give a short-term win but long term may be less effective and end up putting more strain on your voice. Politely address the chatterers ‘I am sorry, I cannot concentrate while others talk – can I please ask for quiet.’ Such an approach allows you to address the problem head on but does not bring individuals to task. Wait a little then ask the chatterers a question This tactic uses ‘questions’ as a punishment and is problematic if you wish to use questions for learning later in the class. It is also likely to embarrass and put the chatterers on the spot – is that what you want to do? Confront the chatterers directly If you think the chatterers are talking deliberately and arrogantly this may be the best option. It is likely to surprise them and result in a degree of embarrassment and a somewhat uncomfortable re-start. However, on rare occasions it may result in confrontation, with the students re-challenging the lecturer. Scale-up, ‘threaten’ more drastic consequences (but you need to carry through) This is a last resort and only to be considered if all your other strategies haven’t worked, so is unlikely to happen the first time you have a noisy class. If you start thinking about this as a possible course of action it is important to check out the consequences in your school or department. Would you get support and backing for either of the following: –

Ask the disruptive student(s) to leave. Will they go, and what happens if they don’t?



You stop teaching and leave. If you do this you really need to have given prior warnings and be aware that other, nondisruptive, fee-paying students may complain about the withdrawal of their teaching.

If you threaten such actions and the behaviour continues, you do need to carry through or lose all credibility. So think long and hard before you make the threat. If something like this happens you then need to tell the course convenor or head of department what has happened as soon as possible. It will also be useful to try and talk to other students about what happened to try and get their perspective and to see if this difficult situation could have been avoided or if you can learn from it and avoid future trouble. It may also help to talk to other teachers who work with this group of students to share the experience and see if they have had similar difficulty and how they have responded. Whatever option you choose it is important to remain in control and appear calm. Another short term ‘win’ is to say something like . . . This is a good time to focus, everybody, because this is usually in the exam. This strategy nearly always works! BUT what message are you sending out? ‘Everything else I am saying is not going to be in the exam so don’t bother listening to the rest of it’? This approach reinforces a strategic and surface approach to study and in the longer term does little to aid deep learning. LATE ARRIVALS Students arriving late can cause a stuttering and unsatisfying start to a lecture, and some lecturers can feel that the interruptions exacerbate their nerves at the beginning of the lecture. Many colleges and departments have policy statements that provide a supported framework within which you can act, particularly if you wish to consider barring entry to your lecture more than, say, fifteen minutes after the starting time. New/parttime teachers need to make sure that their actions sit comfortably with the departmental view on latecomers and their firm actions would be



supported if, for example, students complained about it at a staff/ student consultative committee. It is much easier for individual lecturers to enforce a firm policy on late arrivals if all their colleagues enforce it too and the students hear a consistent rule. It is also a good idea to find out from the students why they are turning up late for your class. It may be out of their control, for example the professor in the class before always overruns, or their previous class is at the opposite side of the university and they have to dash to yours in five minutes. Berating these students for lateness would be very unfair and a different approach is needed, such as consulting with the late running professor, talking to the person responsible for timetabling or room booking to make changes, etc. It is also important to lead by example when it comes to respecting the clock. If we always start late it is difficult to expect students to adhere to strict time keeping. Likewise when it comes to ending the lecture it’s better five minutes early than five minutes late. THINKING AHEAD AND AVOIDING PROBLEMS It is part of your job as a lecturer to maintain an environment in which your students can learn and if a small group of students are chattering or being disruptive the majority of students in the class will be looking to you to take control. Failing to do so will result in a loss of credibility and lead to further discipline problems. Often it doesn’t go away if you ignore it. Many of the situations that might lead to a chattering group of students being a problem can be avoided. For example, encourage the arriving students to fill up the lecture theatre from the front. For my large lecture I make a point of arriving early and standing about halfway up the steep tiered steps. As the students drift in I say good morning and I ask them to sit in front of me, not right at the back. (Postgraduate Certificate in Education tutor) I gave my first lectures in a huge lecture theatre, which was very daunting. Some students sat right at the back. It felt very uncomfortable. The third week I rather bravely asked them to move forward. They weren’t keen to move but I insisted, and now I won’t start a lecture until the students come forward, closer to the action. (History tutor)



What a horrible room I had last year.Very long and narrow, a flat room with pillars blocking the view of several students. There were 120 students in the class and a handful were quite rude, talking and sauntering in late. They always sat at the back of the class and I think they thought that I couldn’t see them. I knew I had to do something but I wasn’t sure what. What I tried, with some success, was I began teaching from the other side of the room. So suddenly my back row people were my front row students. Just being nearer to my potential troublemakers made me feel more in control and confident. (Nurse practitioner) If the room allows it, going and standing near students who don’t appear to be working hard enough will often be all that is needed to encourage them to concentrate. EMPATHIZE Some student frustrations in the lecture may seem to you to be completely justified if there is poor accommodation, overlapping course curricula or a weakly designed course framework.This may happen if you are a parttime teacher on a course that has been designed and organized by another (more senior) staff member.You may need to anticipate student irritation and questions, and acknowledge real difficulties; you may need to report back to those who can change things, and you may need to explain the situation (‘I’m really sorry, we were originally booked into the large lecture theatre but the lights have fused so we are having to make the best of a difficult situation this week – I thank you for your patience’). However, maintain your professional approach and do not undermine your colleagues in front of the students. Some student behaviour may seem odd and unusual. Remember this may be the result of an emotional or medical disorder. In some cases they may have a registered disability. For example: I had not been teaching for very long when I was asked to take a few first year lectures.The group was big and I was nervous.The first lecture seemed to go reasonably well with no major hiccups, but as the students were leaving and I was tidying up my notes, I realized one student was actually asleep on the second row. She was roused and left the class. I felt very humiliated that my lecture had been so dull. It was only later when I was talking about it to a colleague that she said,‘Oh, I wonder



if that’s the student who has narcolepsy.’ I wasn’t even sure I knew what narcolepsy was – but I soon found out the basics and spoke to the student’s tutor to see if I should be doing anything in particular for this student. Very, very rarely a student may appear aggressive and/or unstable to such an extent that it causes the lecturer to have concerns about the safety of that student, other students in the class or, indeed, for themselves. In such extreme cases the student should be asked to leave and university security personnel may need to be involved. If there are ever issues that raise health and safety concerns these should take immediate priority. Instructors should direct a student who is being disruptive or threatening to themselves or others to leave the class. If the student refuses to leave after being requested to do so, the instructor should summon University Police to remove the student. (Extract from The Instructor’s Guidelines for Addressing Disruptive Students in the Classroom, University of California, Santa Cruz) Such incidents will need to be reported to the department and the university, as the exclusion of a student from class is clearly a very grave step. It is therefore important to document the incident conscientiously and take appropriate local advice. POOR ATTENDANCE Probably the ultimate difficult situation for teachers to respond to is the falling attendance issue.This has become a big problem on some courses where a culture of non-attendance spreads across a student cohort. The problem has been widely reported in many higher education systems across the world (Clearly-Holdforth 2006).Why don’t students attend? Research has shown that it is usually a mix of local circumstances, which may include a range of factors such as the students’ interest and personal motivations (Gump, 2006), whether the module is mandatory or optional, time, perceptions of the lecture topic, outside responsibilities (such as family or work commitments), illness or personal problems, etc. Monitoring patterns of non-attendance show that Friday and Monday lectures are most vulnerable (Timmins, 2002) and the lectures at the very start or end of the day may be more poorly attended.



Set these individual causes of non-attendance against an HE culture that has not traditionally seen enforced attendance as being desirable in many courses. ‘They are adults, they should decide if they want to come to class’ being a commonly held view. The fact that non-attendance can frequently be mapped against ‘future failure’ and may be a factor that identifies ‘at risk’ students is challenging this view as teachers become more concerned with student retention and course completion statistics. Numerous studies have sought to examine the effect of non-attendance on academic success, many finding a statistically significant correlation (see for example, Cohen and Johnson (2006) in economics and McCarey et al. (2006) in nursing). Some studies (reviewed in Clearly-Holdforth, 2007) indicate that non-attendance can have a bigger negative impact on ethnic minority groups. Trying to find out why students are not coming to lectures is a sensible but difficult first step to take.Then deciding what you can affect, change or influence is the next. Some factors will be outside your control and might need to be reported to class convenors or course organizers for a longer term solution to be found, some may remain student-centred issues that you cannot change, but, some may be things you can address. Checklist for reviewing non-attendance Some questions to ask yourself: ■ ■

■ ■


Do students know why they should come to lectures and how the lectures are intended to fit in their course as a whole? Do students know and understand the consequences of consistent non-attendance and the impact it could have on their ability to progress? Do students see the connections between lectures and their assessments? Can students readily see where they will be using the ideas and information gained in lectures, in the rest of their course and in the ‘real world’? Are your lectures providing ‘added value’ or can they get all they think they need from provided learning materials such as lecture notes and VLE support (Latreille 2008)? Are you using a range of different forms of communication, for example audio-visual aids, and are you making appropriate adaptations for students with different abilities or disabilities?


Are you doing what you can to provide a variety of forms of learning activity and stimulation in your lectures to maintain interest and appeal to different learners?

FINAL REMARKS Feeling nervous when beginning to lecture is completely normal and it really does get easier the more lectures you give. Be kind to yourself and stack the cards in your favour so you feel as comfortable and confident as possible. Students are far less likely to be disruptive if you are organized, clearly in control of your material and communicating enthusiasm for your topic and the job of lecturing. FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Lee, D. (2006) University Students Behaving Badly. Stoke on Trent:Trentham Books.This text takes a wider look at the types of student behaviour that cause teachers difficulty on a day-to-day basis. Wallace, S. (2002) Managing Behaviour and Motivating Students in Further Education. Exeter: Learning Matters.This book takes a closer look at class management and localized disruption to teaching in further education. Braxton, J.M. and Bauer, A.E. (eds) (2004) Addressing Faculty and Student Classroom Improprieties. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No 99. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publications. TA Handbook (2002) Disruptive Students, Centre for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Delaware.


Chapter 6

Presenting material visually and using PowerPoint well

INTRODUCTION This chapter is about visual aids in lectures, their purposes, their design and their use. Recognizing the current prevalence of one particular visual media tool in lectures, namely PowerPoint, the chapter includes a major section on using this tool well and avoiding common pitfalls. However, we also aim to discuss the use of many other ways of presenting material visually too, including the use of black- or whiteboards, flipcharts, overhead projectors, video, interactive whiteboards and electronic flipcharts. But before we start thinking about the range of kit and technology we now have at our disposal as lecturers, we would also like to reiterate some fundamentals about presenting material visually and link this to what we know about learning. CHOICE OF AUDIO-VISUAL AIDS Both Race (1999) and Baume and Baume (1996) stress the educational importance of selecting appropriate visual aids according to purpose.When presenting at a conference you may wish to make a good impression with the audience, look very professional and actually avoid being interrupted by questions during your presentation, in which case choosing to use PowerPoint is very appropriate. Alternatively you may be giving a lecture to twenty students whom you wish to engage in dialogue and discussion during the lecture and to incorporate student views in the materials you present. In this case a whiteboard or a flipchart may better suit your purpose.The engineer wishing to show how a piece of equipment works may use an animated diagram inserted into a PowerPoint presentation,



whilst the veterinary science teacher would use a video of different horse gaits in her lecture on causes of lameness. So the choice of visual aid is fundamentally linked to purpose but it is also influenced by the norms of a school, the availability of resources and the expectations of students in the discipline. Choices may also be shaped by the impact on learning that the visual aid is intended to have. We can think about visual aids in two categories – those that we generate during a teaching session and those we have pre-prepared and brought to the lecture. GENERATING VISUAL AIDS IN THE LECTURE The white- or blackboard, the flipchart, and the interactive whiteboard are all examples of visual aid equipment that allow the lecturer, or the students, to produce explanatory aids or a record of events during the class. Teachers in some disciplines make extensive use of this form of equipment, using it to work through explanations or derivations in front of the students in real time. In mathematics, for example, board work has long been a core aspect of many lectures, the teacher explaining steps in a solution as he or she works through problems in front of the students. To do this well there are some pretty obvious pointers. Using blackboards and whiteboards Things to remember: ■ ■ ■ ■

Clean boards fully before you start (and clean them when you finish your class). Take care to write big enough and neatly enough for students to be able to read it from the back of the room. Use high contrast colours for text. Plan the use of board space (see Figure 6.1) so that you leave yourself enough room to finish your explanation and don’t need to erase information that is still needed. Don’t try to talk and write at the same time as you end up talking to the board and not to the students (this can cause great difficulties for students with hearing difficulties who are partially relying on lip-reading, or for non-native speakers of English who may use body language and facial expressions to help them gain a full understanding).



The lecturer will clearly have to respond to the nature of the facilities available in the teaching room and work out the most effective way to plan the use of board space. Rollover boards need to be raised up to ensure visibility, particularly in steeply tiered lecture theatres. Long, wide boards

(a) A continuous explanation on a large horizontal board





Starting writing in part 1, moving on to section 2 and so on to section 4. When the board is full return to part 1. And clean and re-use sections in turn. This means that the students will have plenty of time to copy down any notes they may want long before the board needs to be cleaned.

(b) Retaining points of reference throughout the lecture

1 Retain Key information, (equations, names etc.)

2 and 3 Workspace Continuous explanation

4 Findings Outcomes and summary points

Important information that will be used and referred to throughout the lecture is written up and kept (1). Outcomes or generated findings are collected together as a summary section (4) which is added to during the lecture. The centre of the board is the work area for the class. (c) Two opposing views or explanations – compared and contrasted.

1 Position one – work

■ FIGURE 6.1 80

2 Position two – work

Planning the use of board space.


can be readily divided into ‘pages’ and interactive whiteboards can be used to print off or download copies of the board work for students to take away with them or link to via their course web-pages/virtual learning environment pages after the lecture. Using flipcharts Position the flipchart so that you can use it comfortably. Right-handed people often prefer the flipchart to be on the left so that they only need to turn a little to write on the flipchart and then look back towards the students. Holding the flipchart firmly in the left hand and writing with the right also helps to keep writing neat and even. Just because a visual aid is being produced in the class doesn’t mean that it should be messy and untidy.Take care to lay out the page attractively and do not cramp or scribble your writing. Use bullet points and spacing to ensure that everyone can read it. Do not be in too much of a hurry and if you feel too rushed to write properly then abbreviate or ask a student to act as scribe for you (but remember this student will also want time to note-take or take part in discussions too). Flipchart art can be used to make your pages more visually appealing or to emphasize learning points. Figure 6.2 shows some simple designs that can be easily incorporated into the flipchart work of the most unartistic new teacher. For more ideas consult Lucas (2000). The benefit of having your visual aids on separate pages is that you can tear them off and keep them visible or place them around the room to keep attention on important points during the rest of the lecture. These benefits have been extended with the development of electronic flipcharts that use electro-magnetic sensing and digitizer technology to enable a lecturer to not only write on an interactive board (see below) but to copy and store it during and after the lecture. If the electronic flipchart is connected to multiple projectors it is easy to display several flipchart pages at the same time and to readily move between these in the class – so that things can be added to sheets at a later stage in the class. The electronic flipchart can also display scanned images and video footage too, both of which can be written or drawn on by the lecturer to, for example, annotate a diagram or indicate learning points on photographs or film footage. At the time of writing these facilities are relatively uncommon in university teaching rooms but they are being introduced and are likely to become increasingly popular.



Key points

1. 2. 3.

Do not forget


• • • •

Point 1 Point 2 Topic Point 3 Point 4

■ FIGURE 6.2

Making more of an impact with flipcharts.

Using an interactive whiteboard An interactive whiteboard is a large, touch-sensitive panel that connects to a digital projector and a computer, displaying the information on the computer screen. It looks like a traditional whiteboard and can be used in the same way.The computer connected to the interactive whiteboard can be controlled by touching the board directly or by using a special pen.



The use of this technology has really taken off in infant and junior schools as it allows very young children, who may have less well-developed fine motor skills, to use it. It is also being used extensively in education programmes designed for people with disabilities or learning difficulties. Interactive whiteboards or SMART boards are starting to be used in higher education, although at the time of writing the technology is not widely available in lecture theatres. However, because this technology combines the traditional and the new – the chalkboard and all the resources of a multimedia computer (graphics, video and sound, etc.) – its use as a dynamic presentational tool is likely to expand rapidly. USING PRE-PREPARED VISUAL AIDS Using the overhead projector (OHP) Overhead projectors are rapily being replaced in many of the most modern lecture theatres with visualizers, or through the use of PowerPoint (see page 87). However, they are still prevalent enough to warrant a brief conderation in these pages.

The machine itself It is important to know your equipment. There are lots of different models that have slightly different controls for focusing and altering the intensity of projected light. Moving the OHP when it is switched on can blow the bulb. Many OHPs contain a spare bulb and you can quickly switch from one to another by turning it off, lifting up the glass top and swivelling the second bulb across into position. Some older styles of machine don’t have this facility, so either have a spare OHP or have a contingency plan. If you do blow a bulb don’t forget to report it to audio-visual services.

Setting up Try to tilt the screen so that the sides of the image are parallel to the sides of the screen and the image is centred and even. This is known as the keystone. Organize the furniture and your own position so that the students can see the screen and you are not standing in front of it or getting in the way as you point to the slide.



User preferences It is probably better to put an acetate slide onto the OHP while it is switched off so that the transparency is perfectly positioned when it’s illuminated. However, switching the machine on and off between several slides can be very irritating. If you are not referring to the slides for long periods of time it is a good idea to turn the machine off as the projector’s cooling fans are often quite noisy. ‘Revelation’ divides audience opinion; some people like it and some hate it. This practice involves placing a piece of paper across or under the acetate slide so that selected parts of the image are kept hidden from the viewers until you are ready for them to see it. It can help to focus the students’ attention on the relevant points as you talk about them and it can help lecturers to pace themselves. However, some students will find the concealment distracting and irritating, wondering more about what you are hiding from them than what you are saying. It can also look clumsy to fiddle with bits of paper over the OHP. If you do decide to use this approach it is better to place the masking sheet under the acetate, or to weigh it down using a ruler or pen, as the OHP’s glass top and internal fan frequently cause the masking sheet to slip out of position. A technique that has more or less been superseded by PowerPoint is the use of overlays. Here several acetate sheets can be placed one on top of the other to build up the complexity of an image in a series of explained steps. Probably three or four overlays are the most that can be successfully managed. This process has transferred very effectively to PowerPoint presentations when the same slide can be shown several times in sequence with a little more information added each time. To the observer it looks as though things are appearing on the original image (see Figure 6.3).

Overlay 1 PowerPoint slide 1

■ FIGURE 6.3 84

Overlay 2 PowerPoint slide 2

Overlay 3 PowerPoint slide 3

Using overhead transparency overlays.


Designing visual aids – the basics The purpose of any visual aid is to help make a communication clearer and to help students understand and retain information and ideas, so keep the design simple, uncluttered and to the point.

Colours Dark colours like black, blue and brown are easier to read on a light background; use paler colours to underline or emphasize points. Some people prefer white text on a dark blue background and this has been a favoured colour combination for professionally produced templates. Remember, some students will be colour blind and they may confuse reds/greens and yellows/blues. Some students may find different colour and contrast combinations easier to read, for example some dyslexic students prefer a pale coloured background with black text (rather than a pure white background). The three key points to consider when choosing colours are that they must blend well together, they must be readable on the screen and they must match the tone of your lecture’s message and material. Obviously, bright, lively colours may not be appropriate for a lecture on bereavement counselling and it is important to choose the colours that convey the appropriate message. Using red in a financial presentation to impress upon the audience your stability and prosperousness doesn’t work. Red has the image of danger – being in the red. (Claudyne Wilder)

Words If in doubt make them bigger – nobody ever complains that it’s too large to read. Use at least font size 24 and use a clear, simple font without frills. Some believe sans serif fonts, such as Arial, are the easiest for students to read, particularly if they are partially sighted. In tests measuring how people judge their abilities to read different fonts on a projection screen Hoffman et al. (2005) found that there were clear favourites: 1st 2nd 3rd 4th

Verdana Trebuchet Arial Times



These preferences do indeed reflect the original design purposes of font types, with fonts like Times being designed to read well on the page whilst Verdana was designed to read well on a screen. However, Hoffman did find that readers’ preferences didn’t appear to carry through to statistically significant differences in either reading speed or reading accuracy. TABLE 6.1

An investigation into the use of graphics in visual aids

Lee and Bowers studied a group of 112 university students to determine which of the following conditions their students learnt best: ■

reading printed text alone;

listening to spoken text alone;

looking at graphics alone;

listening to spoken text plus reading printed text;

listening to spoken text plus looking at graphics;

reading printed text plus looking at graphics;

listening to spoken text, reading printed text and looking at graphics.

The students sat a pre-test, then learned the material, and then sat a post-test. Their post-test results were compared with those of a control group that took the same pre- and post-tests, but studied a different topic in between. When compared with the control group, the performance of the people in the test groups was always better. The percentage increase for each learning condition is shown in below: Learning condition

% increase in results

Hearing spoken text and looking at graphics


Looking at graphics alone


Reading printed text plus looking at graphics


Listening to spoken text, reading text, and looking at graphics


Hearing spoken text plus reading printed text


Reading printed text alone


Hearing printed text alone




(For more guidance on the design of PowerPoint slides please see the advice on page 92.)

To include images and graphics or not? Use clipart, graphics, diagrams and other incorporated images to add interest.There are many advantages to using pictures/photos and graphics within a presentation: ■ ■ ■ ■

They can enhance understanding of a complicated idea or process. They can grab and keep attention. They aid memory – it is far easier for a student to remember a visual explanation than a series of words. They can be entertaining and help create a relaxed and positive atmosphere.

The importance of using graphics in visual aids to assist learning was investigated by Lee and Bowers (1997) (see Table 6.1). However, Bartsch and Cobern (2003) found that students actually performed worse in memory and recognition tasks when the PowerPoint lecture presentations included text and non-relevant images. They concluded that the incorporation of PowerPoint images that were not relevant to the topic were actually harmful to student learning. So rather than being eye-catching and thought provoking, such non-relevant images detract from the main messages and reduce learning. The results from this research suggests that the incorporation of graphics and images in visual aids will greatly assist learning, but only if they are clearly relevant. PowerPoint – an introduction PowerPoint was launched in spring 1987. Originally only available for Macintosh computers and in black and white, it was intended to generate pages of text and images that could be photocopied onto overhead transparencies. Its use in live presentations, with portable computers and projectors, probably began around 1992 but even in the early days PowerPoint was the first of its kind and a smash hit. Bought for a reputed 14 million dollars by Microsoft, the first PowerPoint for Windows went



on sale in 1990 and its use has grown exponentially. Microsoft estimate that upward of thirty million PowerPoint presentations are made each day (Parker 2001).

Positive student views . . . A number of survey-based studies have reported that students like and value the use of PowerPoint in lectures (Harknett and Cobane 1997; Frey and Birnbaum 2002). Students in these studies believe that PowerPoint helps them take good notes and prepare for examinations.They also feel it reflects positively on the organizational skills and level of preparedness of the teacher. Lowry (1999) compared the exam results of students taught with and without PowerPoint in their lectures and found that students got better marks with PowerPoint lectures. Its use has also been connected to increased motivation, indeed Susskind (2005) reported decreased student motivation when the use of PowerPoint was stopped in a lecture series. However, this has not been every teacher’s experience and Amare (2006) found that although her students expressed a preference for PowerPoint lectures their performance scores, in a pre- and post- test comparison, were lower when PowerPoint was included than after students experienced traditional lecture formats.

. . . and the criticisms The Internet now plays host to a strong debate on the strengths and weaknesses of using PowerPoint in communication. For example, one provocative article (LaPorte et al. 2002) in the British Medical Journal argues that PowerPoint is now the prime vehicle for science communication and that more than 95 per cent of presentations use it.They also explain that PowerPoint/Internet vehicles could replace traditional journals in the effective communication of research, concluding their case with the Kafka quotation ‘From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back.’ It seems that many feel the same way about the inclusion of PowerPoint as the norm in lectures, and although we may see strengths and weaknesses in its use there is no doubt that its ubiquitous usage has changed the experiences of our students in today’s higher education. The main concerns surrounding PowerPoint seem to revolve around the way that it ends up structuring us, the lecturers, into organizing and sequencing our material and ideas in particular ways:



It helps you make a case but it also makes its own case: about how much information to organize and how to look at the world. (Parker 2000: 76) The programme has a wide range of auto-formats and templates, and if one were to simply drop content into these pre-ordained communication vehicles the lecture would ultimately have two authors. Even when a lecture writer tries to avoid these extremes the template structure of PowerPoint encourages a particular approach that commonly includes a slide heading followed by nested layers of bullet points. Parker argues that this strongly encourages a ‘staccato, summarising frame of mind’. Edward Tufte, a professor emeritus of political science, computer science, statistics, and graphic design at Yale University, has been very critical of the use of PowerPoint (Tufte 2003). He is extremely concerned that the cognitive style encouraged when using PowerPoint seeks to simplify beyond meaning and diminish the quality of content. He is worried about the use of this medium in presenting and trivializing complex information in the boardroom and industry and equally concerned about its use in the classroom. He concludes, PowerPoint is a competent slide manager and projector. But rather than supplementing a presentation, it has become a substitute for it. (Tufte 2003) Another worry is that the hierarchical structure that dominates the design of many PowerPoint slide templates can actually fail to communicate the level of importance of included detail.Thompson (2003) records the criticism levelled at the use of PowerPoint by NASA engineers who had assessed wing damage in the doomed American space shuttle. The crash investigators felt that crucial information, with enormous implications for safety, was ineffectively communicated to senior managers on a busy and confusing PowerPoint slide. Another concern is that PowerPoint can alienate an audience by getting in the way of human–human interaction. Some feel it leads to a mode of communication that can be described as presentation from one person to another or others, rather than discussion between people. It could be, therefore, that the student passivity in lectures that many teachers complain about is actually propagated through the use of this and similar presentational tools.



A final concern is one of expectations, time and priorities. When we find ourselves spending too many hours re-formatting slides and incorporating eye-catching graphics and transitions we have to ask ourselves what is really important. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. One driver for this behaviour is the belief that our students now expect very professional looking presentations and will consider us disorganized and badly prepared if our audio-visual aids do not come up to the highest standards of visual enticement and stimulation.

TAKE A MINUTE PowerPoint is clearly a very widely used tool, and is appreciated by students and lecturers. However, it has its detractors and there are concerns about the impact and effects of its use on both students and teachers. What are your views?

Dave Paradi recently repeated his ‘Annoying PowerPoint Survey’ with more than 600 respondents and concluded that the three most annoying aspects of bad presentations were: ■ ■ ■

The speaker reads the slides to us (67.4 per cent). Full sentences were given instead of bullet points (45.4 per cent). Text was so small I couldn’t read it (45.0 per cent).

And free comment space on the survey gave an opportunity to air two other strong viewpoints: ■

A criticism of poor slide design, particularly of poor colour selection and layouts that are inconsistent throughout the presentation. A strong desire to see more visuals and less text on slides.

(see for further details)

Learning and PowerPoint How do students use our PowerPoint presentations in their learning? Do they see a lecturer’s printed off slides as being at the heart of the lecture and as a stand-alone learning resource or do they see them as an



integral and contextualized part of the lecture experience? How do they use the printed copies of our slides to study in and outside the lecture? Clearly, many questions relating to the way PowerPoint is integrated with the ways our students study will require further research (Farkas 2006).

How much information should I present? As has been mentioned, one of the main pathologies of presenting or lecturing is presenting too much information. But how much should be presented? What is a legitimate amount of material to present in a specific amount of time? Most people agree that ‘less is more’ but in terms of evidence there is little to help answer this very important question. Bligh points out that it is a common problem that lecturers try to teach too much, but does not recommend any limit on the amount of material to present (Bligh 2006).When discussing PowerPoint presentations Shephard suggests one slide per minute, with the additional proviso that it’s best to use as few slides as absolutely necessary (Shephard 2005). Morgan suggests a maximum of ten slides for a ten minute presentation, with six to eight being preferable (Morgan 2007a, 2007b). Hall states that the absolute maximum should be six slides for each ten minutes of talk and that there should be no more than eight bullet points per slide, and ‘if at all possible stop at six’ (Hall 2007). These figures are based on informed experience and subjective impressions and are probably useful ‘rules of thumb’. However, in order to answer this question empirically Dennick and Matheson objectively analysed the content of over 600 ten-minute PowerPoint presentations given by medical teachers before and after a series of teacher training courses over a period of years, measuring the number of slides, the word count and the number of images used (Dennick and Matheson 2008). It was found that ‘untrained’ teachers initially used about seventeen slides but that after training this decreased to a mean of fifteen.The total number of words presented reduced from 345 to a mean of 285 and the number of images increased from about seven to ten. Interestingly the number of words per slide remained roughly the same at about twenty. This evidence tells us what teachers do in practice, not what is best or optimal for learning, since the training session did not recommend any particular number of slides or word count. However, there is no question that the untrained teachers tended to present too much material and that training made teachers more aware of active learning methods, which inevitably brought a reduction in total content.



These figures point to a consensus that for the vast majority of tenminute presentations fifteen slides, twenty words per slide and ten images works well. If this recommendation was scaled up to a standard forty-five minute lecture this would suggest approximately sixty-seven slides and a total of 1,282 words. Certainly, as an empirically derived recommendation, presenters should probably not be going above this limit.

Designing PowerPoint slides Starting with text As with other visual aids, the general but nonetheless useful guidance reminds us that text should be large and clear, and that a limited number of words should be used. Using a font size of 24 and larger is recommended, and limiting the number of lines of text to around six seems very sensible. Limiting the number of words per line can also be helpful. Some suggest a maximum of seven words per line. This means you can rarely write proper sentences, but instead use key words and ‘bullet points’. We are also reminded that capitalization should be avoided in our slides as it is more difficult to read than ‘sentence style’ text, which mixes upper and lower case letters. Much of the guidance, relating to producing visual materials with the needs of dyslexic students particularly in mind suggests using bold rather than italic or underlining to provide emphasis, again on the grounds of ease/speed of reading. Underlining is also used as a way of signifying a hyperlink. When it comes to the use of colour and text, a high-contrast text colour such as black or dark blue works well on a light background (or vice versa, white text on a dark background).The colour of text can also be used to reinforce the structure of the lecture or show related points. For example, showing positive points in dark green and negative points in dark burgundy; or mid blue titles and darker blue text. Using a dramatically different coloured text to emphasize a point can work well, but if overused its impact rapidly fades. Fussy and over-complicated mixtures of coloured texts on a slide or through a lecture presentation can end up looking quite messy and unprofessional. Do be aware that you will create problems for colourblind students by using inappropriate colour combinations (see page 183). Using a colour wheel can help get it right: ■


Colours that are directly opposite from one another, e.g. red and green, create maximum contrast.


Colours next to each other, e.g. green and blue, harmonize with each other.

For more on using colour in design, Pegie Stark Adam’s website, ‘Color, Contrast and Dimension’, provides an interactive and useful overview ( Last but not least – check the detail on PowerPoint slides. Selecting templates If you have a choice, don’t always use the same slide templates for every lecture, as this does tend to make one lecture look very much like another and blur one into the next. Some universities and colleges, however, recommend the use of a ‘corporate design template’. A ‘template’ is the term used in PowerPoint presentation software to describe the different background designs for every slide, including such things as the colour scheme, the style of headings and borders, etc. However, to give a professional impression many lecturers try to keep the template consistent within any one lecture. You may also want to keep the format of any animation the same too, for example the way one slide is replaced by the next when you press ‘next slide’ in PowerPoint. If that is the case it is important to set a ‘slide master’. Information that you wish to be present on every slide you present should also be set on the master (for example, your name, logo, copyright details etc.). Thinking about layout Most users select a slide template and formatting palate to suit their purposes – for example, a title slide usually presents text in the centre of the screen/page and a second text box below gives the presenter’s name and affiliation. Other slide formats frequently include bullet points, which

TOP TIP . . . I have found that it is much better if I prepare my slides and spell-check them on the computer one day and then print them off as a paper handout. I then re-read them the following day. I nearly always spot a mistake that I had missed the day before.



can be combined in different positions with inserted charts, graphs, photographs, clipart, animations, etc. It can be useful to replace the standard bullet points with numbers if you wish to communicate a hierarchical list, a priority ordering or important sequencing of information. When positioning text and images on a slide it can be useful to remember two things: ■

focal point(s); the journey of the eye across the slide.

Focal points can be used to direct attention and therefore highlight some material over others. Focal points are usually provided by images and icons, which grab attention first and direct the viewer to the ‘important point’. The intended journey a viewer’s eyes take across a slide often begins at the top left-hand corner and moves down the screen, ending in the bottom right-hand corner. This follows the normal pattern of reading in the West and plays to students’ expectations. It is therefore equally possible to challenge those norms and lay out a slide which requires viewers to follow a different journey, for example from bottom to top or from right to left. This is likely to ‘surprise’ a viewer and therefore can be used to emphasize a difference in content too (see Figure 6.4). A consistency of visual approach across a presentation (of colour, style, layout, etc.) is frequently recommended on the grounds that it shows coherence and looks professional and organized. So it is important to remember that differences are likely to draw attention and may imply importance or special meaning. This way?



■ FIGURE 6.4 94

Diagram showing an example of a different viewing pathway of material/information presented on a slide.


A more obvious but useful reminder is to include automatic slide numbering in lecture presentations and include identification footer information (e.g. lecture title, date, etc.) to aid student note-keeping and filing. Including graphics and images in PowerPoint lectures PowerPoint has a number of options allowing data to be shown visually through graphs and charts. For many learners this visual and diagrammatic way of presenting data is easier and quicker to comprehend. However, graphs need to be labelled and axes numbered and labelled to be sure not to mislead or confuse learners, and care taken with the overall visual impression created. For example, some of the 3D shading effects can be distracting and the selected colour schemes need to be in harmony with and reinforce the main messages of the lecture. Advice on designing charts and graphs ■ Highlight the purpose of graphics by giving them precise titles that explain both the relationship they demonstrate and the conclusion the speaker draws from that relationship. Give titles to axes and label all sections of charts, tables and diagrams, thus modelling good practice for your students. ■ Consider what kind of relationship you wish to demonstrate when choosing how to represent it. Line graphs represent changes of a dependent variable as a function of changes in an independent variable, bar graphs represent relative quantities, pie charts show relative proportions of a whole, etc. ■ It is difficult to extract information from a table quickly. Highlight significant numbers, convert data into graphic form or present minimal data to ease the audience’s interpretation of a table. ■ Minimize the amount of visual information the audience must process so that they can focus on the most important material. ■ Make all print large enough for audience members to read comfortably – even if they are sitting in the back row with less than 20/20 vision. Incorporating digital images, animations and video Research has shown the effectiveness of including animations and video clip footage in a lecture that uses PowerPoint presentations, but only if it is relevant to the lecture’s main message. It is beyond the scope of



this book to talk through the technical details of how animations can be produced, but to incorporate existing media files into a PowerPoint presentation you can: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Open and display the slide you want to add the video or sound clip to. Select ‘Insert’ from the top menu. Choose Picture, or Movies and Sounds. Select Picture From File, Movie From File, or Sound From File. Look in desktop (or the folder that the file was saved in). Select file. Click OK. Decide if you want the movie or sound to play automatically in the slide show. (Adapted from guidance provided by The University of Michigan Library)

Remember that video clips are not integrated into the PowerPoint presentation itself, as graphics and pictures are, and so it is important to save a copy of the video or animation clip file in the same folder as the presentation so that the PowerPoint programme can access it and play it. The complex issue of copyright and intellectual property rights Copyright legislation differs between countries but in the UK, for example, copyright is automatically given to anyone who creates original work and affords them the economic rights for any revenue generated by their work. This means ‘works’ do not need to be registered to be protected and so much of the digital content, that can be so easily accessed on the Internet, is covered by copyright legislation. Copyright is part of the broader set of rights that are commonly referred to as intellectual property rights (IPR). A person’s IPRs can be bought, sold, hired and bequeathed just like any other kind of personal property. So in the case of digital images, in the majority of cases a user would need to approach the author/creator and gain their permission to use their work. In the UK, since the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act the concept of ‘moral rights’ has also existed, which provides the author/creator with protection for the artistic integrity of their original creations.



An excellent source of guidance through the intricacies of IPR can be found at Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI) website at www. On moral rights TASI summarizes the implications as being: 1 2 3

The right of the author of a work to be acknowledged as the author/creator. The right of the author to object to false attribution. The right not to have his or her work subjected to ‘derogatory’ treatment.

In addition to the above moral rights, there is an additional right afforded to the subjects of photographs and films taken for domestic and private purposes.This restricts the subsequent use of them beyond the purposes for which they were originally taken, without the subjects’ consent. Interpretation of the law is not straightforward as it relies on interpretation of key words such as ‘reasonable’, ‘fair’ and ‘original’, which means that things are rarely black and white and usually somewhere in between. For example, defining ‘ownership’ of copyright, when the author/ creator is a member of academic staff, who has produced the work whilst in the employment of a higher education institution, can be complicated. As university policies differ and change frequently in this area it is better to seek local guidance on the status of personal copyright in this situation. ‘Fair dealing’ for non-commercial research or private study allows a teacher to use material in such ways that do not damage the creator’s present or future commercial interests.This again can be very difficult to

For further information please see the TASI guidance and consult with your own institution’s legal compliance or IPR office. As the individual circumstances of ‘use’ are so important in negotiating copyright legislation, giving generic guidance here could mislead and the above example is given to indicate the complexity of the field rather than seeking to provide absolute guidance.



judge. One interpretation is that using an image to instruct or examine students in a class could be seen as fair dealing but providing multiple copies and posting the image on the teacher’s website is likely to be viewed as exceeding fair dealing.

Using PowerPoint in the lecture It is well worth rehearsing your presentation in the room where you will be giving the lecture if you can. If you have your presentation on a memory stick it is worth copying onto the desktop and working from the copied version, especially if you have animations and video incorporated in your PowerPoint. When presenting using PowerPoint it is important to remember the fundamental presentation skills advice of ‘try to maintain good eye contact with your students’. It is very easy to turn your back on them and talk to the screen, or to find yourself constantly looking down at the computer screen. Lecturers do need to glance towards their notes or screen to obtain their lecturing cues but it is important to reconnect with the students as soon as you can. There are a number of keyboard shortcuts that can help you present more smoothly when using PowerPoint. Our favourite is being able to blank the screen when I want to quickly remove the projected image by simply hitting the ‘B’ key – but here are some others you may like to use. Action Next slide Previous slide Go to slide ‘number’ Black screen White screen Change pointer to a pen Change pen back to arrow Erase onscreen annotation End slide show

Keyboard strokes N, Enter, Spacebar P, Backspace ‘number’  Enter B W CTRL  P CTRL  A E ESC

Experience shows that the integration of ‘live links’ to websites within the PowerPoint programme seems to be fraught with difficulty.The delay in accessing a live link, the chance that it might have been moved in the ten hours since you last checked it, the probability that your university server crashes at that precise moment, etc. all make it a more risky business and potentially frustrating for you and your students.



The majority of web pages were never designed to be projected in a lecture theatre and so most are unfit for this purpose – they are usually too full of information, and the font size too small to be read easily, and therefore considering why you want to ‘show’ them is very important. Sometimes it may be to show how to navigate particular sites or to give an overview of what content can be explored there after the lecture. Action Buttons within PowerPoint allow a teacher to provide hot links to websites if they really want to do this but our advice is if you do want to do this rehearse the way you will move between presentation(s) and websites smoothly. If you just want to show something briefly why not cheat (!) and copy a screenshot of the web page into your presentation rather than going live to it in the lecture.

USING POWERPOINT TO PRODUCE LECTURE SUMMARIES AND OUTLINES NOTE: Most staff do not (and should not) produce detailed lecture notes for you to simply print out. Our usual strategy is to provide you with headings and sub-headings to give you a STRUCTURE around which the lecture operates.Your printout will, therefore, normally only provide you with the outline and you will be expected to extend it, both during the lecture and after it! REMEMBER – strictly there is no need at all for you to PRINT the PowerPoint notes. You can just as easily use them to prepare or revise online or simply to take notes by hand from the slides as you would in a lecture, but at a more relaxed pace. Always remember, however, that the detail will not usually be there – for this you MUST attend the lectures: that is their main function. Taking notes is a skill that you need to develop. Do not become lulled into thinking that all you have to do is print off the slides. We provide the structure BUT you must provide the detail, either from the verbally provided lecture content or from your own reading. PowerPoint is only an aid to making good notes! (Full guidance available at usingPPT.html.)



Many lectures also make their PowerPoint slides available to their students via their course website or university virtual learning environment (VLE) and students can view or download the slides either before or after the lecture.Treating these PowerPoint materials as study resources in their own right, rather than simply as presentational tools, raises further questions.

Guiding students to engage effectively with PowerPoint lecture materials It is clear that teachers are using PowerPoint and other similar presentational tools in a wide range of different ways, and have varied expectations about how their students should be making good use of the resources they provide. It therefore makes sense to be explicit in the guidance we give to our students about how we see our learning materials being used to best effect. For example, in the box below Allan Jones explains his expectations to his biology students on his personal website.

PRINTING NOTES FROM THE PROVIDED POWERPOINT PRESENTATION FILES: THREE OPTIONS 1 For text only print-outs, use PowerPoint’s outline view option. This text can be saved as a Rich Text File (.rtf) and then imported into Word if you wish to modify or add to the text, for example by incorporating blank spaces in which to write: most lectures will not take up more than two sides of A4 in this format. 2 Perhaps you want to use PowerPoint’s Notes Page View option that presents the slide at the top and blank space below for your own notes. 3 If you really want copies of the slides themselves rather than the text contents (e.g. when there is a graphic you want to include in the notes) use the printout option called Handouts (2, 3, 6 or 9 per page). If the slides have dark backgrounds, you may need to amend your printout settings (either in preferences or by right-clicking on the background of the first slide and changing it to a different Slide Colour Scheme).



This clarity is much appreciated by students, as indeed is the precise detail of how best they can cost effectively work with the materials you provide. Without guidance many students print out full and expensive versions of your PowerPoint slides and a prompt to simply print off ‘text only’ summaries or outlines can be very useful.

Printing off notes – guidance for students Case study USING POWERPOINT IN THE LIFE SCIENCES Allan Jones is a Senior Lecturer, Division of Learning and Teaching, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee I first saw a PowerPoint presentation in the early 1990s and my immediate perception was of its enormous potential to improve my teaching from both my own and my students’ perspectives. My enthusiasm has only increased with the steady improvement in the capabilities of the program, although I have also become fully aware that its potential for good is equally matched by its potential for inappropriate use as a pedagogical tool. This particular feature led in 2003 to my publication ‘The use and abuse of PowerPoint in teaching and learning in the life sciences: A personal overview’ (www.bioscience.–3.htm). I have used PowerPoint now for almost all aspects of both my life sciences teaching and my staff development work for more than a decade and I consider it to have enormously added to the attractiveness and functionality of my extensive teaching activities. Since first using it, my students have, in surveys, always commented positively on my particular use of it as being both stimulating and supportive of their learning activities. I’m sure that I do not need to go into the theoretical benefits of this excellent visual tool although I have always considered its primary, though rarely stated, contribution to the development of my teaching to be the ease of the editing process: it is so easy to modify a presentation based upon need/experience that it has facilitated both the evolution and currency of my lectures, seminars, etc. It was this feature that first attracted me to its use, having already spent some 20 years modifying and updating lecture materials the relatively ‘old-fashioned’ way, which was costly in both time and resources. Of course, the key to its successful use in teaching and learning lies in having a successful strategic pedagogic approach to its incorporation into the learning


PRESENTING MATERIAL VISUALLY processes of the student population, a feature all too often neglected on the grounds of retaining academic freedoms of individual teachers. Optimally there should be a group strategy for its incorporation into teaching: that does not mean that its use needs to be compulsory, only that the alternatives need to be properly integrated into an overall strategy that the students are made aware of. The most frequently encountered problem in terms of student use is that there is a tendency for students to feel that, once they have the PowerPoint files, they do not need to attend lectures or be active during them. This is a function of both the content and delivery of the files provided to students and it is important that these are skeletal and require annotated additions from the lecture. I prepare two files for each lecture; a skeletal one provided to the students and another that contains the material I wish to deliver over and above the student version and which often contains copyrighted images that must not be provided to the students for printing. My own strategy is to use PowerPoint to provide students with lecture outlines and graphics but to retain large amounts of detail for delivery in class contexts so that students need both to attend and to be actively annotating PowerPoint printouts throughout the sessions. It is clearly unwise to provide all the detail either in handouts or PowerPoint files since this results in students being passive in lectures, etc., and it has long been established that passivity does not facilitate real learning. I make my PowerPoint files containing skeletal outlines of lectures available to students in advance via our BlackBoard VLE and students are encouraged to read and print these in advance of lectures as preparation for the coming session. Graphics not available from other sources are also provided to facilitate their use in the session. Copyright issues are taken into account when providing files containing graphics for printing. I also provide a website that advises how best to use my PowerPoint files for their learning ( uk/~amjones/usingPPT.html).The encouragement to print the outlines, however, requires appropriate training for the students as many are unaware of the variety of printing formats that are available and lack of instruction can result in students incurring considerable, unnecessary costs. Outline or six per page handout formats in greyscale seem to be optimal from this perspective. Showing students how to export text as .rtf files for subsequent incorporation into a word processing program is also of great benefit. A final advantage of using PowerPoint to produce supportive handouts is that the files can be provided to students who require modifications to support a disability: they can then modify these files as required, for example convert them to Braille or large fonts.


PRESENTING MATERIAL VISUALLY In my experience, most problems in the use of PowerPoint for teaching and learning usually reflect the limitations and uncreative approaches of individuals. One simple example will perhaps illustrate this. Clearly the primary benefit of using PowerPoint is that it is a highly visual medium (‘a picture paints a thousand words’): thus to produce text-only slides using a ‘boring’ slide design is clearly not making use of the power of the tool to be visually stimulating: I have a copy of a presentation by a critical (of PowerPoint) colleague that comprises fifty-nine slides of capitalized white text on a uniform mid-blue background with no graphics . . . need I say more! The reference to PowerPoint as ‘death by a thousand bullets’ in current business literature simply reflects the failure of most business presentations to vary the style of the content, although in a skeleton outline such as recommended here, the bullet strategy is an appropriate one. The latest iterations of PowerPoint are so powerful that I would find it difficult to provide the same levels of stimulation without them – the easy incorporation of images, the ability to construct drawings and diagrams and the ability to hyperlink from within a presentation make this my favourite teaching tool.

FURTHER READING AND SOURCES OF INFORMATION This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. The use of PowerPoint in lectures is a particularly hot topic on educational- and technology-focused blogging forums, and spending ten minutes to Google the issues provides a wealth of small-scale practitionerbased action research projects in which teachers have compared varied PowerPoint practices and the resulting student reactions and achievements. We particularly enjoyed reading: Cockburn, T. and Matthew, A. (2006) Lecturing Law with PowerPoint: What is the point? Queensland University of Technology. 1/eLaw_Cockburn_13_2006_07.pdf. Thomas, M. and Appala Raju, B. (2007) ‘Are PowerPoint presentations fulfilling its purpose?’ South East Asian Journal of Medical Education, Inaugural Issue. www.



There are many more situated in different countries and in different disciplines. For a more general view, full of hints and tips see: Bartsch, R.A. and Cobern, K.M. (2003) ‘Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures’, Computers and Education, 41(1): 77–86. Brown, S. and Race, P. (2002) ‘Lecturing tools, in Lecturing:A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page, pp. 80–105. Tufte, E.R. (2003) ‘PowerPoint is evil: Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.’ Wired.


Chapter 7

Preparing and using handouts and learning resources INTRODUCTION Handouts are paper-based resources given out before, during or after a lecture.These hardcopy materials are increasingly being supplemented or indeed replaced with a wide range of online learning materials. In some cases students are provided with electronic versions of lecture handouts, via a dedicated course site, on the university’s virtual learning environment. Students can be expected to print these off and bring them to the lecture in a printed format that best suits their own learning styles and note-taking preferences. In this chapter we wish to examine why handouts are used, to consider what makes a useful and effective handout and to explore further uses for these kind of learning resources in and outside the lecture theatre. WHY USE HANDOUTS? The range of potential uses does seem to be expanding as practitioners experiment with different handout formats and challenge the traditional ‘didactic’ view of the lecture itself.Today we see handouts being used: ■ ■ ■

to support students’ note taking (aiding structuring, spelling, etc.); to support students who have a disability that affects note taking; to make the aspects of detailed or technical knowledge transfer more accurate and efficient (e.g. by providing diagrams, tables, etc. that would take ages for students to copy down themselves in the lecture);



to structure (and help manage) learning tasks and activities within the lecture; to provide additional information that is important but cannot be ‘covered’ in class; to suggest areas for further study and additional reading recommendations.

However, here we divide purposes into two core areas and consider first the use of handouts in providing information for students and then, second, as a way in which interaction and activity can be supported in the lecture. Using handouts as sources of information is their traditional function, whereas using handouts as vehicles for student activity is a relatively recent development, building on the concepts of active learning (see series website guide, Brown 2004). HANDOUTS AS INFORMATION PROVIDERS Full lecture notes Handouts can be used to provide a printed, text-based version of the whole lecture.This may be the whole lecture as a kind of script or academic paper. More commonly full lecture notes now contain copies of all the lecture slides (produced by, for example, PowerPoint) presented in the lecture. They may also be used to provide additional information that was not actually presented in the lecture but provides extra detail. Some lecturers provide their students with the full lecture notes and the annotated additions which they made during the lecture, after the lecture. An advantage of such handouts is that all students have access to the main concepts of the lecture, regardless of their note-taking ability or their language proficiency; the lecturer can be certain that the lecture has been comprehensively ‘covered’ and effectively recorded.This can be useful if students have missed lectures through illness or who have a disability affecting their ability to take notes. However, this approach may generate a ‘spoon-feeding’ attitude to teaching. Some students may consider that they do not need to actually attend the lecture and that they can get everything they need to know just from the provided handout; lecture attendance might start to decline.This situation can be exacerbated if handouts are made available electronically via a virtual learning environment where students can have access to lecture notes and presentation material prior to the lecture.



To create good lecture notes, a useful starting point is to remember that teaching should be a dialogue between teacher and students. Lecture notes should be part of this interaction. Students should view your notes as one learning tool, rather than the only learning tool. Lecture notes should enhance or complement the lecture or class rather than be the class. (Richard James, University of Melbourne, Australia) Summary notes A handout might contain a condensed summary of the key ideas and concepts presented in a lecture. It might list the learning outcomes, an outline of the lecture’s main headings and the conclusions reached. Many presentation packages allow the lecturer to produce an ‘Outline’ version of their lecture presentation which produces a Word document that lists the main and sub-headings used in the class. Handouts like this are essentially just a printed version of the lecture without any additional information or added value and careful thought should be given to their potential effects on learning, i.e. do students wrongly believe that they have everything they need from a lecture if they have your brief, summary outline? Skeleton notes A modification of the previous approach is the provision of handouts that only contain the elements of the lecture, which would take students too long to copy down, or in doing so at speed may result in many inaccuracies and loss of crucial detail. Skeleton notes may therefore include such things as important diagrams, figures, maps, equations or tables.They may also include copies of visual aids, such as photographs or images that are impossible to copy. Such skeleton notes might be commonly seen in subjects like science, medicine or engineering. In the humanities and arts skeleton notes may include quotations, and in language studies, summaries of vocabulary or translations, etc. An alternative view of skeleton notes is that they provide a loose, connecting framework of the topics to be studied which the students can add detail to during the lecture. It is very likely that the students would need these kind of skeleton notes in advance of the class so that they can gain an overarching view of the topics and the way they connect, thus enabling them to place the additional detail more easily in the lecture itself.



AN ASIDE . . . Summary and skeleton notes can support learning in the lecture as they both alleviate the need to copy copious amounts of information from boards, slides and overheads. This can free students to concentrate on listening and thinking about the content and arguments in the lecture and to make far fewer additional notes. The delivery of the lecture may even be altered by these approaches, as the lecturer is now less concerned that students have to copy everything down and proceed at a snail’s dictation pace. A lecturer, very helpfully, can talk to students about how they can best use these handout notes and clarify how they are expected to add to and personalize them for their own study.

This kind of ‘note-taking’ may be considered as quite advanced and may better suit higher level students rather than new first year undergraduates. A range of studies (Klemm 1976; Morgan et al. 1988) have shown that students provided with skeletal notes usually perform better in course examinations than students who take all their own notes.The amount of detail provided in handouts is a critical factor that affects their ability to support learning in lectures. Additional information notes: handouts providing more information than could be presented in the lecture We have already discussed the problem of information overload in lectures and suggested that lectures containing too much information become ineffective. Students can become overwhelmed with detail and time management can become a problem. A solution to this is to provide additional material in handouts to be read and processed after the lecture. Additional detail, problems and case studies can all be provided in this way. The lecturer can then concentrate on explaining key information during the lecture but know that the students all have copies of additional important and relevant material to take away. A common type of further information is a list of further reading and references. From a curriculum perspective it is important to recognize that the lecture and its associated handouts form the overall content for that



session. Clearly this information should fit into the overall curriculum design of a course or module in a balanced way. Handouts should not become yet another way to overburden the student with too much material. HANDOUTS TO SUPPORT INTERACTION AND ACTIVE LEARNING Gapped notes The simplest form of interactive handout is the gapped note in which students are provided with a relatively full set of lecture notes that have strategically placed gaps which the students need to fill in and complete during the class. Originally designed as a way of holding attention in the lecture, these notes do run the risk of being a little patronizing (‘please copy down this slide into the gap on page 2 of your notes . . .’) and may even drive a very utilitarian approach to learning. One might worry that gapped notes may encourage students to just listen out for the lecturer’s prompts to write in the gap in their notes without really engaging in the ‘journey’ and ‘picture building’ of the lecture. Interactive notes containing student tasks We believe that by far the best use of a handout is as a tool to nurture and support active learning. Information can still be provided but the handout should ideally also contain spaces for a variety of activities involving students in processing information, applying new ideas and tackling questions and problems. If the overall handout also ends up being a record of the key learning points of the lecture then so much the better.The use of interactive handouts also gives students a sense of ownership of their lecture notes as they insert definitions, annotate quotations, label diagrams or insert their own answers to questions. It is clearly possible to include learning tasks and activities in a lecture without incorporating them into the handout. However, an added benefit of doing so is that students will have a written record of the task and their resulting learning embedded in their lecture notes.This is likely to aid their further study and revision. From the lecturer’s point of view, having written instructions for a learning task, included in the lecture handout, helps in the class management of the task and ensures that everybody knows what they are doing, when and why.



The variety of activities that can be facilitated by using ‘interactive handouts’ is only limited by the imagination of the lecturer and the demands of the discipline but some of the more common techniques are listed and described below. How these activities can be integrated into an ‘active lecture’ will also be discussed in more detail in Chapter 8. Text additions This is one of the simplest ways of encouraging interaction.The handout contains a piece of text with some key words left blank.The students have to fill it in, working out the correct words from their background knowledge and the context. It may seem a trivial task but do not overestimate the ability of students to deal with new words and terminology. The task can be made more interactive by asking students to vote by putting up their hand on the correct word from a list presented on an overhead. Spaces for definitions, translations, etc. In the overall design of the interactive handout spaces can be left to insert important definitions, names, dates, translations, etc. Students can be given a brief opportunity to fill them in or the lecturer can give them directly, depending on the situation. Incomplete definitions, formulae, etc. A numerical variation on the previous method is to provide incomplete definitions, equations or formulae that have to be completed by students. Complete the list Some activities involve students thinking up lists, finishing sequences or completing chronologies. Partially drawn flowcharts or timelines can be provided to facilitate this process. Spaces for graphs, diagrams, maps, flow charts, etc. In some cases it is useful to leave a section of space for students to draw a diagram or a graph. Alternatively, an unlabelled diagram can be provided that is labelled during the lecture or the axes of a graph can



be provided ready for a graph to be inserted. This idea can be extended to maps, flow charts, concept trees or any other appropriate diagram. Incomplete or unlabelled processes or sequences In the scientific and technological disciplines there are many processes that can be described diagrammatically.These can be provided in outline form with spaces left for students to insert arrows or connections between the elements. Alternatively the arrows can be provided and students have to add and name the constituent components. Problems and questions with space for answers Encouraging students to apply their knowledge can be facilitated by providing questions, problems, scenarios or ‘case vignettes’ that are worked on during the session, leaving spaces for students to insert their answers. Questions can be inserted, testing previous knowledge and understanding during the lecture and providing a brief test at the end. Interactive handouts Some or all of the above methods can be incorporated into an interactive handout, and examples are shown in Figures 7.1 and 7.2. However, the structure and sequencing of sections in the handout needs to be carefully integrated with the overall structure of the lecture. If students are to take away an overview of the lecture then the completed handout should provide a summary of the key points and learning outcomes. The use of the handout should be explained at the beginning of the lecture during the contextual phase. Then the lecturer should navigate in a logical sequence through the handout, using it at appropriate intervals to vary the stimulus and provide a thought provoking activity. Individual or group activities with interactive handouts Interactive handouts provide activity and stimulation for individual students but encouraging students to work together in small discussion (or ‘buzz’) groups can increase the level of interactivity. In a large lecture students can be asked to work together in twos and threes and even in eights with appropriate guidance. If there are gaps, questions or definitions to be inserted students can be given a few minutes to work together to come



up with an answer. Students who have worked in this way are more open to further interactivity and will more easily respond to questions from the lecturer. In many ways the imaginative use of interactive handouts in lectures, coupled to student group activity, can achieve some of the deep learning benefits of small group teaching. Recent research has shown that students value and enjoy these ‘interactive windows’ in lectures. Studies also show that students frequently gain higher test scores when assessed on lecture material that included interactive elements (Huxham, 2005). PROVIDING QUALITY HANDOUTS The handouts you provide send a clear message to your students about your approach to teaching and the value you place on your students and their learning. So what do scruffy, illegible, out of date, over-photocopied handouts say to your students? So what do we think good quality handouts looks like? They should be clear, readable, attractive and stimulating.They should be well structured and organized, with appropriate headings, and should contain sufficient space for students to insert material if required. The language of the handout should be simple and concise and aimed at a suitable level of understanding. Images and diagrams should be clear and unambiguous. Handouts should not be photocopies of photocopies of photocopies where the text is starting to disintegrate and the images are losing their contrast. Handouts should be regularly updated and printed out in appropriate batches each year. This is always important but may be crucial for partially sighted students in your lectures. When preparing handout materials it is important to consider the varying needs of all your students. For example it may be helpful to consider recent guidance on inclusive practices which recommend consideration of the following: ■ ■

■ ■

Provide materials in advance and electronically so that students can access them in a preferred format before the lecture. Design materials with clarity firmly in mind using a sans serif font, such as Arial, in a font size of 12, with text broken up with white space and avoiding excessive capitalization. Provide handouts on buff or pale coloured paper rather than white. Provide brief glossaries of important terms, which can be particularly helpful to dyslexic students or non-native English speakers.



Updating Handouts and other learning resources need to be updated and content checked from one use to the next. Two aspects that are particularly important to check are: ■ ■

web links – are they still live? references – are they still the most useful and recent?

Evaluating materials To find out how the students used your handouts and how useful they found them, you will probably want to consider evaluating the materials you provide. Here is a quick evaluation checklist to help you do this in the box below. WHEN TO PROVIDE OR DISTRIBUTE HANDOUTS Depending on their use, handouts can be given out at the beginning of a lecture, during the lecture or at the end.Alternatively, they can be provided online for students to print off before or after the lecture.

EVALUATING HANDOUTS – A QUICK CHECKLIST 1 Is the level appropriate for the course and the students? 2 Is any new terminology explained and are new terms defined? 3 Do they contribute to (or compete with) what is presented in the lecture? 4 Is the handout clearly layed out on the page, are headings and white space used effectively? 5 Are they clearly readable by all your students (either in hard copy or online)? 6 Is space left for students to add, annote and personalize? 7 Are references and web links up to date? 8 Are suggestions for further study included?



Which method you choose usually depends on two things – how you intend your students to use the handout, and the practicalities/logistics. If the handouts are a summary of the key points of the lecture and are designed to minimize note taking then they should be given out at the beginning with appropriate instructions. If they contain additional material, reading lists or references then they can be given out at the end. If the handouts are of the interactive variety then they need to be given out before or at the beginning of the lecture, as should an interactive handout that is closely integrated with the content and sequence of the lecture. Distributing handouts in a large lecture can cause disruption and take time. Some lecturers like to have ‘fanned out’ piles of handouts near the room entrances for students to pick up as they come into or leave the lecture. Others prefer to distribute smaller sets of notes to student helpers to pass round when needed. Increasingly, lecturers are providing notes online and asking students to print off copies and bring them with them to class. Whenever they are given out there should be clear instructions on their use and the lecturer should monitor that they are being used correctly. It is worthwhile asking students not to start reading through the handout and to pay attention to the lecturer. If copies of overheads are provided in the handouts then students should be asked just to look at the overhead image being displayed and annotate it rather than reading forward and possibly losing the thread of an argument. PRE-LECTURE NOTES AND DOWNLOADS Study skills advice to students usually encourages them to prepare to come to a lecture, to think about the subject and orientate themselves to the topics to be discussed. One way a lecturer can support this is to provide summaries or lecture notes in advance. Advice for students on using online materials provided before a lecture can include: ■

■ ■

Skim read the notes to get a quick overview of what is to come before reading through more carefully, highlighting important information. Annotate your notes – add your own comments or questions in the margin. Highlight key terminology and look up any that you aren’t too sure about. Add definitions or explanations to your notes.



Copy onto your computer so that you can customize the materials to best suit your way of learning in the lecture (for example, some students prefer to double space notes or insert additional space for their own notes whilst others prefer to mind-map or diagram the content rather than have text lists). Case study USING AN INTERACTIVE HANDOUT

‘RS15’ is the fifteenth lecture in a series of lectures on the respiratory system for a mixed class of first year medical students and pharmacists. The delivery of the lecture is closely linked to the two-page interactive handout shown in Figures 7.1 and 7.2. During the lecture there is a mixture of presentation, explanation, questioning and student activity. Not only does this lecture demonstrate the use of an interactive handout in an active lecture; it also shows how prior factual knowledge is activated and how students are encouraged to apply their knowledge and solve problems. ■

The lecturer begins by welcoming the mixed group of students and pointing out a photograph of a man in an intensive care unit with broken ribs who is suffering from respiratory failure. This acts as a focus and context for the importance and relevance of the lecture. The lecturer introduces the interactive handout, which was picked up as the students entered the lecture theatre, and prepares them to involve themselves in the activities to come. The lecturer revises and activates previous knowledge by working through key information using art overhead image of Figure 7.1. At twelve minutes the lecturer initiates a student activity by asking them to discuss, in a buzz group for two minutes, factors that might cause a fall in ventilation rate.This information is to be listed in the table on the left of the handout on Figure 7.1. After the buzz group, answers are elicited by asking students to raise their hands if they have written down certain information. This activity takes about ten minutes, The lecturer then describes and discusses the information needed for students to fill in the upper table in Figure 7.1. At twenty-five minutes further explanation leads to a definition of respiratory failure and the filling in of the ‘basic definition’ box in Figure 7.2. Students are next encouraged to think about particular levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide that define Type I and Type II respiratory failure.



RS 15 Respiratory failure PBar

anoxic anoxia


Causes of V/Q scatter






pleura ribs



V/ Q

VE Causes of VE




Shunt Q stagnant anoxia

spinal cord CO2 H+ heat 2,3-DPG


30 Po2mm Hg 90

Hb muscle

Tissue PO2

anaemic anoxia



Poison e.g. HCN



histotoxic anoxia

■ FIGURE 7.1 Copyright AHS 18.5.94


An interactive handout used for a lecture on respiratory failure (I).


RS15 Objective:

Construct a definition of respiratory failure and devise suitable criteria; identify likey causes; propose management.

Basic definition


A 57 year old male with severe exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, brought to casualty by ambulance with severe dyspnoea, sweating and deeply reddish-purple colour. 20 breaths/min, many moist sounds Pao2 = 50 mmHg (6.7 kPa), Paco2 = 60 mmHg (8 kPa)

B 19 year old female, known asthmatic, seen in GP surgery an athmatic attack which is persisting despite using her salbutamol metered dose inhaler. 11 breaths/min, deep respiratory movements with audible wheezing. Pao2 = 67 mmHg (8.9 kPa), Paco2 = 42 mm Hg (5.6 kPa)

C 37 year old male building worker has fallen 6 feet onto a pile of bricks. Was brought to casualty in a workmate’s car, and unconscious when removed from car. 24 breath/min, paradoxical movements of right side of chest. Pale and sweating; blueish lips Pao2 = 45 mmHg (6 kPa), Paco2 = 45 mmHg (6 kPa)

■ FIGURE 7.2

An interactive handout used for a lecture on respiratory failure (II).

Copyright AHS 18.5.94



■ ■

Using a ‘voting’ system the lecturer gets students to put up their hands for particular values that are discussed, evaluated and then used to fill in the ‘criteria’ boxes. At thirty-three minutes students are again asked to work in buzz groups to look at the three case vignettes. They have to decide whether each is a case of Type I or Type II respiratory failure. At thirty-six minutes student responses are elicited by a show of hands and the results discussed, evaluated and inserted into the appropriate boxes. At forty minutes the lecturer informs the students that there will be five minutes for questions before summarizing. At forty-six minutes the lecturer summarizes the key points of the lecture.

IN SUMMARY Handouts are an important adjunct to contemporary lecturing practice. They have a wide range of styles and uses and if designed correctly and used appropriately can enhance the quality of learning. The way that inclass handouts connect and interface with learning materials and resources provided outside class and online (for example on Blackboard or WebCT) is a rapidly changing scene. Individual lecturers need to hold onto their own teaching goals and focus on the question ‘How do I want my students to use the materials I provide?’ to help them make the best choices for them and their students – there is no one right way of doing this, but a number of viable options. FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Huxham, M. (2005) ‘Learning in lectures: Do “interactive windows” help?’ Active Learning in Higher Education, 6(1): 17–31. Klemm,W.R. (1976) ‘Efficiency of handout “skeleton” notes in student learning’, Improving College and University Teaching, 24(1): 10–12. Morgan, C.H., Lilley, J.D. and Boreham N.C. (1988) ‘Learning from lectures:The effect of varying the detail in lecture handouts on note-taking and recall’, Applied Cognitive Psychology, 2(2): 115–122.


Chapter 8

Active learning in lectures and using interactive handsets

INTRODUCTION In this chapter the authors wish to encourage lecturers to use a variety of mechanisms to enrich the learning experience of their students in the lecture theatre. Sitting, listening and taking notes for hour after hour is very difficult to do (remember how it feels at the end of a full day of lectures when you attend a conference). We are not suggesting that a lecture should be scripted like a James Bond film, but it should contain different movements, it should include different presentation modalities and it should appeal to the senses in as many ways as possible. There are a number of simple ways that the stimulus can be varied from the presentation point of view. Simply splitting a lecture into context, content and closure as described in Chapter 3 is already one way of modulating the overall experience. In order to increase attention span, engage the students and encourage them to think, it is also recommended that the lecturer considers breaking the lecture into short sub-sections of ‘lecturer input’ and interspersing this with student activities that provide opportunities for active learning and interaction. More recently interactive handsets, to be described in more detail later, have given lecturers a new and exciting method of interacting with a large audience of learners. Students can also view the introduction of active learning approaches in lectures positively. Studies in the early 1990s reported that the students consulted found a traditional, didactic lecture to be their least favourite form of teaching (Butler 1992). Williams (1992) also reported that her students were willing and enthusiastic about taking a more active role in the lecture.



WHY USE INTERACTIVE LECTURES? They enable the lecturer to: ■

find out students’ starting point;

challenge students;

check assumptions;

link sessions throughout a unit/module.

Interactive lectures may help student learning as they can: ■

keep students awake and warmed up!

open students’ receptivity;

accustom students to having a voice;

help students absorb information;

help students with a variety of learning styles;

aid retention of learning through articulation of views. (

Many students say that they enjoy interactive lectures more than a traditional didactic lecture. Some also report that they feel that they learn more: It forces me to think during the lecture. Yes, it’s a good idea. I do learn more than in a normal lecture. I think that feedback and interaction is always beneficial because more ideas and perspectives are brought out and argued. The interaction forces you to apply the theory and more fully understand the material or clarify what you don’t understand. Yes, I do learn more, in terms of expanding my thinking on concepts by hearing points of view that I wouldn’t have thought of.Also, speaking



with the lecturer removes the ‘power’ dynamic of authoritative teacher and a powerless, voiceless student. Interaction provides communication between students and enables them/us to be informed in topics we’re too shy to ask about. (Views of sociology students attending interactive lectures reported in Crowe and Pemberton 2002) DOES INTERACTIVE LECTURING AID LEARNING? Does it work better? Do students understand material more deeply and remember it for longer? Do they do better in their exams? Many teachers have explored the use of interactive lecturing and come to their own decisions.The literature is littered with examples of teachers and course designers evaluating their own provision and trying to assess the effectiveness of this way of teaching. Many teachers report a positive response to the introduction of active learning approaches in their lectures. We are venturing to say that coming to grips with the material in the classroom, where the student is committed via small group exercises, and other active strategies, to ‘owning’ the material, turns the student into an active, more effective learner, who is more likely to achieve the learning outcomes of the lecture. If that is so, however, we would expect that not only would students prefer to answer exam questions based on material they felt more comfortable with, they actually would perform better – i.e. achieve higher grades – on those questions. This is precisely what we found. Although it is ‘early days’ yet to argue in any other than a tentative way, the results of the use of the interactive lecture format are encouraging. (Crowe and Pemberton 2000) However, proving that changing just one aspect of teaching, within a large and complex curriculum, has benefits for all the students is clearly very difficult to do. There are so many variables and potential points of bias. Some students enjoy a more participatory way of learning and therefore engage more fully with the ideas and material of the course, while others would much prefer just to be told what to write down in their notes to pass the examination. So how do we try to measure the success of a teaching strategy? We could interview students to find out how much they



rate the effectiveness, or look at rates of attendance at classes, compare performance in examinations, record students’ future course choices and expressions of interest in the subject in the future. There are many valid questions that we can use to build up a picture of teaching effectiveness for our own courses. We also cannot avoid thinking about the different learning styles and expectations of our students.The charisma and skills of the lecturer will also have a significant part to play and impact on the students’ experiences and preferences. In short, absolute proof of impact is difficult to obtain, cause and effect being notoriously difficult to pin down in a multi-variable experimental condition. However, the number of articles supporting the introduction of active learning methods in lectures and reporting the positive experiences on individual courses by individual lecturers are collectively building a very persuasive argument in favour of this way of lecturing. PERSONAL CHOICES Clearly the number of students in the lecture, the venue, the topic and the teaching style and preferences of the lecturer will determine the frequency and appropriateness of the learning activities incorporated. Teachers new to lecturing may well wish to build up their confidence and teaching skills and begin their exploration of active learning in lectures modestly by using some of the techniques described in this chapter, if possible beginning with smaller scale activities, with smaller classes, in favourable environments. However, the ideal is not always possible and the luxury of the ‘developmental and incremental approach’ may be denied some new teachers because they have relatively few opportunities to lecture (particularly new part-time teachers). WHY NOT? Bonwell and Eison (1991) have identified a number of barriers to incorporating active learning into a lecture. These include the impact of educational tradition and breaking with the norm that may lead to a lack of support from colleagues and departments.We have already mentioned the reaction from some students who would apparently prefer a more didactic and passive lecture. Perhaps the most significant barrier is that of personal risk, which can take many forms.Will I lose control of the class? Will I fail? Will the students give me bad student reports if I try asking



them questions in the lecture? Will my colleagues think that I am not teaching properly and reneging on my responsibilities? Table 8.1 presents responses to many of the common criticisms and difficulties raised when considering introducing active learning in lectures. There is no doubt that lecturing in this way does require particular skills from the lecturer and changes the role of the teacher.As with small group TABLE 8.1

Introducing ‘active learning’ in lectures: common challenges and possible ways forward



‘Interaction reduces the time for content delivery.’

Most lectures are overloaded, and reducing input may be helpful and actually increase learning.

‘Students just want a good set of lecture notes to learn later.’

Interactivity does not preclude this and the lecturer can still provide clear and structured lecture notes.

‘The lecture is where we tell the students things.’

Using interaction will let you know that the students have heard and understood what you have told them.

‘The students will hate it and won’t take part.’

The teaching approach may need to be explained and the activities justified in terms of the intended learning goals.

‘The students don’t know enough to be able to talk about it yet.’

The choice of learning task is crucial – talking about it may not be appropriate, but applying a new concept might.

‘What if they ask me things that I can’t answer?’

Good – it shows they are thinking and this is not a personal challenge. Students can be referred to other sources, and topics can be revisited in later sessions or via course VLEs.

‘They might just be discussing last night’s football.’

Give a clear focus, timescale and endpoint to the task and move around the classroom to monitor activities, and very few students will wander off course.

‘Won’t the lecture just lose clarity?’

As with the didactic lecture a clear structure is needed, the map should be shared with the students at the outset and a balance should be maintained between input and interaction.



teaching (see Exley and Dennick 2004), the lecturer is now faced with the responsibility of constructing appropriate interactions and responding to students’ comments and feedback. Just as the skills of presenting are developed through practice and reviewing successes and weaknesses, so are the skills of coordinating interactions in the lecture. New teachers can learn from others and gain ideas from this chapter but should be prepared to learn as they go, building confidence and a personal belief in this approach. WHAT CAN I DO? If persuaded to give active learning in lectures a try there are fundamentally three ways in which the lecturer can vary what the students do in a lecture: ■ ■ ■

what the students hear; what the students see; what the students do (on their own and in groups).

This chapter is constructed around these three dimensions and focuses on the student experience in the class. VARYING WHAT THE STUDENTS CAN HEAR IN A LECTURE The lecturer’s voice is clearly the most important thing that students will hear. As a common complaint from students is a monotone projection it is crucial for lecturers to modulate their voice by varying pitch and intensity to stress and highlight points, to pause for emphasis and take natural breaks in speech to help the students listen effectively and keep their attention. (See Chapter 4 for a fuller discussion of the use and care of the voice.) Audio recordings In a number of disciplines it may be very useful for the students to hear examples of soundbites and audiotaped recordings to illustrate the points being presented, for example sounds made by different bird species in ecology/biology, heart murmurs in medicine, or instrument signals in



astronomy. In other subjects it may be very informative and stimulating for the students to hear radio samples, for example an interview with a politician, an orchestral conductor or a businesswoman. Lecturers may make their own recordings to demonstrate particular learning points.These may be ‘real’ or ‘simulated’, for example a conversation between a dentist and patient or a marketing director and client.The power of the isolated spoken word, undiluted by visual images, can be a very powerful trigger for thinking. It may give more space for individual interpretation and creativity and be more easily anonymized, if it is important to protect an individual’s confidentiality. Occasionally lecturers may play music in a lecture.This may be the topic of the lecture or to reinforce a point being made. Alternatively it may be used to give the students a break and a rest from concentrating and note taking.This is more likely during longer, two- or three-hour lecture slots or during evening teaching sessions when part-time students are studying after work. VARYING WHAT THE STUDENTS CAN SEE IN A LECTURE The students will see the lecturer first and it may be possible to vary this through team teaching and through the use of ‘lecture duets’ (Somers and Campbell 1996). Hearing two different perspectives on a topic or a semi-structured debate can really bring a subject to life and help convey the complexity and diversity of the topic. Guest lecturers Several teaching courses make extensive use of ‘guest lecturers’. These may be specialists, professionals, industrialists, etc. who are asked to contribute their particular knowledge or experience in the field to broaden a fundamentally academic position. However, the course leader should take great care to brief their guests properly and clearly explain what is expected of them – preferably in writing. Details such as the timings of the lecture, the focus and learning outcomes, the range and scope wanted should be specified.The students’ academic background and information about their prior experience, level of understanding and context of learning should also be explained to the speaker. In order for the lecture course to remain coherent and retain some consistency, the course leader



could also helpfully discuss issues of teaching style and expected norms in the lecture.These courses can often be experienced by the students as a series of unlinked talking heads and leave them feeling insecure about their future assessments.The coordinating role is therefore crucial. Using visual aids Many lecturers use a variety of visual aids and presentation tools to get their message across. The use of overhead projectors, visualizers, slide projectors, flipcharts, white/blackboards, interactive whiteboards and smartboards and PowerPoint were discussed in detail in Chapter 5. One comment here is the reminder that the use of different visual aids will bring very different classroom dynamics and student expectations. For example, the use of PowerPoint echoes the style of a professional presentation and students report finding such a lecture virtually impossible to interrupt with questions. It feels more formal. Body language Whether we choose to ignore the body or to highlight it, the fact of the matter is that it is important to know that we speak volumes about ourselves through it, whether we know it or not. Erving Goffman would comment that, while an individual can stop speaking, he or she cannot stop communicating, through body idiom.You can say the right thing or the wrong thing with the body, but you cannot say nothing. (MacNevin 2000) There are several (non-evidenced) estimates that suggest as much as 70 per cent of communication is non-verbal, and in one-to-one communication a more detailed breakdown of percentages gives 7 per cent in words, 23 per cent in the tone of voice, 35 per cent in facial expression and 35 per cent in body language. Even if these figures are generally assertions, in the literature the message is clear.The lecturer’s thoughts will definitely affect his or her tone of voice, facial expression and body language. Feelings of boredom or frustration will show through the lecturer, be implicitly interpreted by the students and impact strongly on their experience of the lecture. Body language and its interpretation also differ between countries and cultures. In the world of business a great deal of effort has been spent in trying to improve understanding of the ways in which cultural body



language differs. In teaching, too, lecturers will wish to avoid unnecessarily offending their students and may find it difficult to interpret correctly the non-verbal feedback they receive from some international students during the lecture. Demonstrations A demonstration basically involves showing the students something.You can choose to show a range of things in a lecture for a variety of educational purposes. Some examples are given in Table 8.2. Using video clips As with audiotaped recordings, video clips can provide a different and stimulating way of bringing material into the lecture for discussion.Videos TABLE 8.2

Using demonstrations in lectures

Demonstration type

Examples of practice

Model a skill or a procedure.

e.g. Show how to take a blood pressure measurement; show how to play a chord on a guitar.

Display a sample or example.

e.g. Pass round the class a piece of sandstone to compare it with a piece of marble. Bring into class original manuscripts.

Use a model to explain an abstract or complex idea.

e.g. Bend a piece of wired string to show how DNA is packaged in the nucleus. Ask the class to do a Mexican Wave to illustrate nerve synapses.

Ask students to demonstrate to themselves through personal experience.

e.g. Experience skeletal muscle fatigue by repeatedly clenching and unclenching a fist. View images that can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

Present an actual or simulated situation or case-study.

e.g. Show the company mission statements and policy documents. Use the real brief given to the contracting architects. Ask a nurse to take a patient’s history.



may be professionally produced teaching or training videos that are bought to be presented in class. It is also reasonably common practice to use homemade video clips or recordings for teaching sessions. However, there are complex issues of copyright that need to be considered. Copyright is the exclusive right that protects an author, composer, producer or programmer from having work reproduced or exhibited publicly without expressed permission. Many universities have entered into licence agreements that enable teachers to make use of TV and radio programmes for the purposes of education and assessment. The purpose must be for educational, not promotional or recreational use, and the (nonpaying) audience must be registered students and staff. Several universities will hold the ERA (Educational Recording Agency) Licence, which is a blanket licence that allows reasonably free use of TV material for teaching. You can record feature films, advertisements, documentaries, dramas, etc. You can also record cable and satellite programmes as there isn’t, as yet, a licensing scheme in place to cover their use. Please note that programmes and resources produced by the Open University are not included under the ERA Licence but are covered by a separate licence agreement.Again, many universities do hold this licence. It is very important that new teachers consult with experts on copyright law and the licence agreements held by their own institution before copying and showing clips. VARYING WHAT THE STUDENTS CAN DO INDIVIDUALLY IN A LECTURE With very large classes in unsympathetic environments the best way of encouraging students to interact with the ideas and material of the lecture may be to set them individual tasks to carry out during the class. The most commonly used approach is simply to ask the students a question and ask them to think about it for a few moments and try to respond. Here lies the first big decision for the lecturer. Do you want to know the answers that the students have come up with? It may be important for you to hear their responses and feedback for several reasons: ■ ■

to encourage more students to participate in the activity in the first place; to demonstrate that the answers they generate are useful and important;



to check that the students are understanding the lecture so far; to identify and be able to correct misunderstandings; to help you shape what you say next.

On the other hand it may not be important to get feedback during the class. The purpose of the task may be that the students can check their own understanding, or to prompt thinking and deeper learning, and in this circumstance feedback is not essential. Or, the task may be included in the lecture simply to add variety in the learning process and to give the students a break from listening and note taking and so help them maintain their concentration when the lecturer later resumes his or her presentation. Whether or not the lecturer feels it is important to hear back from the students after they have completed a task will depend on the intended purpose of the activity. Central to a lecturer’s decision is the notion that any time that students spend on individual or group activities in the lecture is effectively ‘bought’ with time the lecturer could be spending in traditional didactic delivery. So, the purpose of the activity should be clear to the lecturer. In some ‘content-heavy’ disciplines shifting the ‘input/activity’ balance may seem more difficult to justify as it may not represent the norm. (Please see the section ‘Hearing Back From the Students’ (page 131) for further ideas about how to manage class feedback.) Tasks for individual students

Asking questions Many lecturers ask their students questions in their lectures but frequently comment that they find it very difficult to get their students to answer. When asking questions give the students thinking time, ask them to write down their answers and if possible set a target that will stretch your students. For example: Please write down at least five good reasons why we use lectures in higher education. Be prepared to justify your answer. Make a quick note of as many meanings for the word set as you can. You should be able to come up with at least four. What else can we ask students to do in a lecture? Table 8.3 provides a summary of ideas for activities.




Tasks that students can undertake in a lecture

Students can be asked to: ■

search for, select and organize information supplied;

abbreviate or summarize information supplied;

solve problems and answer questions;

set problems and ask questions;

make a judgement on a case or a situation;

predict the outcome of an experiment or an intervention;

estimate the cost of a design choice or a business decision;

make a diagnosis;

list and prioritize.

Timing The positioning of student learning activities in the sequence of the lecture is also worth considering here. Let us take the example of a ‘quiz’. The use of quizzes in a lecture can serve several different roles for the lecturer (and students). At the very beginning of the class a quiz on the content of the previous week’s lecture can help the students remember what was being discussed in the last class and help to link the content to this week’s lecture. It can help the class quickly settle to the work of this week’s lecture and may be used to highlight areas of weakness or help the lecturer emphasize that there is still much to learn about the topic, if the students already feel that they know all there is to learn on the matter! Using a quiz, twenty minutes in, can provide the change of pace and the different learning activity that can help the students to concentrate and focus on the topic. The quiz questions can be used to check understanding and to see if the students can indeed apply what they have just heard about, whether that be ideas, theories or principles. At the very end of the lecture a quiz can act as a ‘live summary’ of the key points that the lecturer wishes to emphasize. It may act as a checking mechanism to focus the students and force their detailed attention. It may also serve as a vehicle for linking today’s lecture with next week’s – and highlight the ‘questions’ that the next class will address.



Hearing back from the students If it is important to gather the ideas and views from students in the lecture, and there are a number of ways that the lecturer may tackle this. Voting is probably the simplest method: ‘Who thinks left . . . who thinks right . . . who isn’t sure?’There is a natural resistance to voting; students may be inhibited from expressing their views in public and exposing their ignorance, or they may simply feel silly sticking their hand in the air. Teachers may use voting repeatedly in a lecture and so erode some of this resistance and encourage more students to take an active role. The show of hands can be replaced by other forms of voting, for example students could be asked to stand up before the question is asked and then either sit down (to indicate a ‘Yes’ vote) or remain standing (for a ‘No’ vote) to express their views. To energize a tired class this physical movement is a good thing. Providing handouts with different, contrasting, coloured front and back sheets allows the students to vote by showing the different colour – this ‘all at once’ system of voting has advantages because it is obvious who is abstaining and the lecturer can focus his or her attention on encouraging the non-participants. To obtain fuller responses from the students it is helpful to provide very clear instructions to the class about what you are wanting from them, for example:‘In two minutes I will be asking you to give me at least five reasons why we assess undergraduates.’ Then student views can be sampled. Suggestions can be requested from students sitting in different parts of the lecture theatre: ‘Can I have one reason from your list? Let’s take one from over here’ (indicating with your hands and eye contact).The students sitting in this section of the room will feel more obliged to respond to you but you are avoiding putting any one individual on the spot. It may be appropriate to ask students for written responses or feedback. The lecturer can pass Post-it™ notes around the class and ask them to write their feedback and comments on them (individually or in small groups). This approach is more commonly used in small group teaching but in smaller sized lectures it may be a useful method to collect views on the topic, on the teacher, on the course, etc. Race (1999) suggests that the use of Post-its can encourage participation from students who are less confident and forthcoming in oral feedback sessions. Some lecturers cut up overhead projector acetates into quarters, and pass the quarters and pens around the lecture theatre, asking the students to make their contributions if they wish. Not all students can make their comments known in this way but it does provide some sampling of views



A CONCERN Picking on individual students to answer a question is a high-risk strategy that will increase the tension in the classroom. If the chosen student doesn’t know the answer, or answers incorrectly, the lecturer has the difficulty of rescuing the situation. He or she must try not to embarrass the student further while providing the rest of the class with the correct answer clearly. The student selected may be painfully shy or have a disability that affects his or her ability to communicate when under pressure. The authors suggest that this method only be used when the lecturer knows the class well and has developed a certain rapport with the students which enables him/her to respond with appropriate tact and sensitivity to the class atmosphere.

and ideas to be included in the class. Advantages of this report-back method are that lecturers can preview and think about the contributions before showing them to the class.They can show up to four comments at once, which will allow them to draw comparisons, indicate differences of opinion, relate ideas to each other, etc. The comments are effectively anonymous in a lecture of any size and, therefore, lecturers may also feel freer to critique the contributions without directly criticizing the contributor. Using incomplete handouts For large lectures the incomplete handout provides the opportunity to give written instructions about learning tasks, very clearly, to a large number of students. Instructions are more likely to be misheard or misinterpreted when just given orally to large groups. The structure of the task can be set out clearly with appropriate gaps and spaces in which the students can make notes and give their answers. When taking lecture notes it is very likely that students will not record the learning that takes place during discussion activities or learning tasks so this work is frequently lost from the written record of the lecture, i.e. the students’ lecture notes. Failure to make notes supports the notion that the learning that takes place through the interactive parts of the lecture is less important and less valid that that gained through the lecturer’s direct input. By designing lecture handouts that incorporate student learning



activities in the form of ‘worksheets’ it is more likely that students will leave the lecture with a fuller and more complete record of their learning experience. The tasks that can be incorporated into interactive handouts may include those presented in Table 8.4 (the tasks suggested for individual students in Table 8.4 could also be very readily incorporated into a handout). Some teachers have found that an interactive handout can become the structuring focus for an entire lecture. (See Chapter 7 for more detail about the use of handouts and examples of practice.) VARYING WHAT THE STUDENTS CAN DO IN PAIRS AND SMALL GROUPS IN A LECTURE Many of the individual activities described above can be extended to include an additional step in which the students are asked to discuss their views with a neighbour. Peer interaction leads to valuable learning outcomes (Biggs 1999a). Through discussion, students may clarify their TABLE 8.4

Suggested learning activities for students using interactive handouts in lectures

Students working with interactive handouts can be asked to: ■

complete a picture;

complete passages of text;

complete definitions, formulae, etc.;

draw up lists;

draw a graph;

label a graph;

fill in values in a table;

correct the errors in a calculation, a translation, a music score, etc.;

interpret the experimental results provided;

annotate or label a diagram;

put arrows on a flow chart;

plot positions on a map;

represent information as a pie chart, bar chart, etc.



thinking because they have to organize their thoughts to put them into words.They may have their views challenged or questioned and so be better prepared to defend and justify their positions. They practise giving their opinions out loud, finding the right words to express themselves clearly and gain experience in using the language of the discipline.All these factors mean that students are usually more willing to share their thoughts with a wider group, with the class as a whole, following a discussion in pairs. This may, therefore, be a prerequisite for the broader discussion or plenary session that follows a particular learning task. It has been shown (Nicol and Boyle 2003) that asking students to think about a question individually before going into a discussion with colleagues nearby is very beneficial. It is more likely that all students will take an active part in the discussion and less likely that a few will dominate.This clearly has the potential to increase the quality of exchanges. When asking students to discuss their views the lecturer can vary the directions given. For example, he or she may say: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Compare your list with your neighbour. Interview your neighbour about his or her list. Look for interesting differences between you and your neighbour. Reach a consensus with your neighbour. Combine you and your neighbour’s lists and prioritize the top three.

How big can you go? Pair work is the easiest to manage in very large lectures in fixed seating lecture theatres. However, if desirable, it is possible to ask one pair to turn around and talk to the pair behind them. Asking students to get out of their seats and perch on their desks may be a helpful thing to do if the students have been sitting for a long time. However, it is clearly disruptive and time-consuming to ask students to move around too much in such a room. At a stretch groups of up to six can be formed by asking three students in two adjacent rows to work together. In a room with a level floor and moveable furniture larger groups can work together, although the optimal group size for discussion is about six and discussion becomes more difficult above eight. If you have the potential to organize your lectures in a more flexible manner and can arrange for the students to be sitting and working in small



groups during the class, you may find Chapter 9, on workshops and syndicate groups, useful in the Small Group Teaching volume of this series (Exley and Dennick 2004). Dealing with the consequences If you encourage interaction and discussion in your class and, by design, try to make your students braver so that they can feed back and respond to your questions, there will be other consequences too. The traditional power balances shift; students may be more likely to interrupt you and ask questions and challenge your perspective. Some may enjoy being controversial (Stefani 2001) while others, few in number, may seek to be disruptive. When using group working in the lecture there is also the problem of having to facilitate many small groups simultaneously and control the overall activity and noise level.These problems can be solved by judicious organization. It is usually not a problem for students to talk in twos and threes but students do need to be persuaded to get into these groups and there is always a tendency for them to try to stick to friendship groups. The lecturer shouldn’t be afraid to walk out into the lecture theatre and walk up and down the aisles making sure students have formed groups correctly and that they are on task. Clearly there will be a lot of noise but giving good, clear instructions, ensuring everyone knows what they are supposed to do and keeping strictly to time is the best way to manage these activities. What can be achieved in such groupings? Essentially anything that might be achieved in a small group teaching situation. However, the groups might focus on a task requiring the use of an interactive handout. There might be some sort of output needed from each group: an answer to a problem, a list or a definition. Students might read them out or they might be collected on an overhead and displayed at the end. Not all groups need to do the same task and the room might be divided up into specific groups. Interactive lecturing on PBL courses At first sight it might appear paradoxical that lecturing and Problem Based Learning (PBL) might co-exist and even be associated in a curriculum. Lecturing is traditionally seen as a one-way, non-interactive transmission of information whereas the PBL session is a group discussion of a problem generating a wide range of activities, questions and possible answers to be



explored further via self-directed means. (For a more detailed account of PBL see Exley and Dennick 2004.) Whereas lecturing is the archetype of ‘didactic’ teaching, PBL is the apotheosis of ‘active’ learning. But appearances can be deceptive. Lecturing can be both interactive and active. Questions can be raised and discussed by both students and teachers under appropriate circumstances, knowledge can be applied and problems can be solved. PBL on the other hand is more than just the active group sessions; it involves students using educational resources to answer their questions and test their hypotheses it involves using libraries, books, the Internet, practical experiences and of course some lectures. A traditional curriculum might be dominated by lecturers that deliver or transmit required information and concepts in lectures that could number between ten and twenty in a week’s teaching. However, the number of lectures seen as resources for a PBL based course may be only two or three in a week. Students on a conventional curriculum will attend many lectures in a week and will expect that a significant proportion of the curriculum will be delivered in this way.They will pay attention to the lecture in the conventional way and add the knowledge, more or less acquired depending on the skills and enthusiasm of the lecturer, to their stores of information. But students experiencing lectures integrated with a PBL course should approach them in a significantly different way.When they enter the lecture theatre they will not just be expecting another lecture in a long list, they should see it as an opportunity to find out answers to some of the questions that have been generated by the priming process of the previous PBL session. The cognitive state of the students in the lecture theatre should be qualitatively different from students in a conventional lecture.Therefore these lectures should be special, they should be designed to integrate with the PBL scenario that the students are currently engaged with and they should provide opportunities for students to interact, to question and to engage more fully with the teacher’s exposition. Another important element of lecturing in the context of a PBL course is that students should get to see an ‘expert’ engaging at a professional level with the subject matter from the discipline that they will be eventually joining.This ‘role modelling’ is an important component of the professional development of the individual student and should not be ignored. The professional expert may enthuse students with their love and understanding of their subject, they may usefully point out the pitfalls that novices often make, based on a lifetime of experience and they may inspire students to think about a career in their particular specialism.



USING HANDSETS FOR INTERACTIVE LECTURING The arguments for the use of interactive approaches in lectures can be summarized as follows: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

to ‘engage’ and interest students so motivating them to learn; to help students learn better – improve results; to help students identify and build upon what they know already; to help students check and review their understanding; to give the lecturer feedback on student understanding (and their own teaching), etc.

What are key pads? Key pads (KPs), also known as interactive key pads, audience response devices, ‘clickers’, etc. have revolutionized the activity of lecturing and presenting. As has been discussed, one of the main problems of lecturing

■ FIGURE 8.1

Key pads can be used to make lectures more interactive.



is its lack of audience interactivity and participation. This problem is instantly solved by means of these hand-held devices. KPs enable a lecturer or presenter to create a learning environment in which potentially all members of an audience or student body can provide answers to questions set by the teacher or to give other forms of feedback or responses. How do key pads work? The lecturer displays a multiple-choice question using an OHP or projected PowerPoint.The students each select an answer from a range of possible alternatives and then submit their answers using their own push-button handset. After a minute or so the software projects the collective class results and shows a graph of how many students selected each of the possible answers.The lecturer can then use and respond to the class views in a variety of ways depending on the original learning outcomes for the session. The lecturer may comment on the range of answers that the students have given, or use the different opinions to trigger a whole-class discussion or to instigate conversations between pairs of students. Alternatively he or she may tell the students the correct answer and move on to the next section of the lecture. The handsets and the equipment needed The handsets look like TV remote controls and are distributed one per student (or possibly one per group). The handsets send an infrared or wireless signal to a receiver that in turn is linked to a computer. The computer has software installed that allows quick analysis of the handset signals and collates and displays the results graphically via a data projector. When wired together this set-up can be referred to as a classroom communication system (CCS). There are several handset systems now commercially available, for example EduCue distributes the Personal Response System (PRS) and KEEpad have their Audience Response System (see ‘Using PRS EduCue in Genetics’ on page 148 for more about the use of this system). Distribution and allocation of the handsets to students can be managed in a number of different ways.They can be given out in the class by a group of nominated student helpers, they can be allocated to students for the whole period of study, or students can be required to buy handsets, which are then bought back by the university when they finish their course.



Making use of the handset technology The ability of the handset technology to get a quick, individualized response from a large class of students has several practical advantages. It is easy for students to use and allows them effectively to vote anonymously. The students benefit from seeing how their responses compare with the rest of the class and the lecturer gets instant feedback about how the students are thinking, understanding, feeling, etc. Lecturers can use student responses to inform and guide their inputs, for example: ‘Quite a few people got that wrong so I need to explain it again in a different way.’ The lecturer can also use the public generation of different points of view to initiate debate and discussion. In subjects where the concept of the ‘right answer’ can be a misnomer but the importance of a justified argument is central, the technology can be used to ask students to defend their point of view. KPs can be used to: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

respond to a range of multiple choice or objective question formats; poll student opinions; carry out surveys; allow students to give feedback on lectures, presentations and courses; administer an assessment (either formative or summative); monitor individual and/or whole class responses; measure ‘before and after’ learning; monitor student attendance.

From the teacher’s perspective the interactivity gives greater insight into student understanding and allows them to refine their explanations and discussions to optimise learning. Examples of uses

Activation of prior learning It is always useful to activate prior learning at the beginning of any teaching session by referring back to previous work and by asking questions. Using KPs enables the teacher to see the responses to a series of questions



orientated towards prior knowledge and to use this information to judge the best way of introducing the session. For example if some significant deficits in knowledge and understanding are detected then it might be appropriate to begin with some brief revision of previous work.

Before and after test KPs enable the teacher to easily measure the learning that has taken place during the session and to record the results. If the session begins with a brief test of knowledge, understanding, application or problem solving then this can be repeated at the end of the session and the results compared. It is possible to display the before and after data side by side on the screen so that students can see the results of their learning, providing important feedback. The learning that has occurred can be related to the teaching methods employed and hence teachers can use this to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their techniques.

Active learning KPs are ideally suited to fostering the principles of active learning. No longer need lectures and presentation be one-way communications – students can now engage in a wide variety of tasks with the outcomes communicated via KPs. The teacher can now be in contact with and can manipulate individuals, groups and the whole class. Students can work and respond on their own or they can be encouraged to form pairs, groups or teams. It is up to the imagination of the teacher to devise appropriate tasks that will focus student activity on application, problem solving and hopefully deeper learning.

Varying the stimulus As has been previously mentioned in Chapter 4, monotonous lectures and presentations should be avoided and there should be a regular variation of stimuli. KPs are ideally suited to carry out this function as a wide variety of questions, activities and interactions can be initiated via their use.With any new technology there will be a ‘honeymoon’ period when the novelty factor will be high. However, if they are used too much inevitably they will lose their excitement so KPs need to be used sparingly and appropriately.



Testing knowledge acquisition, application and problem solving KPs can be used to see if students have grasped an important piece of knowledge or if they are now able to apply and use their understanding to solve problems. Explanation and exposition can therefore be immediately followed by recall and application tasks using the KPs. Depending on the results the teacher can provide feedback, move on or recap.

Opinions As well as testing knowledge and understanding KPs can be used to elicit opinions, views, feelings and emotions concerning a wide variety of issues. They can be used to gauge the range of views and feelings in an audience concerning value judgements, ethical situations and grey areas of decision making. The teacher might test the audience’s responses to a variety of scenarios or case studies.The results acquired can be used by the teacher to inform and even modify their presentation and their explanations in the light of opinions held. Exposing learners to the range of opinions that might be present in a large audience can act as a powerful learning experience and might lead to useful reflection and self-evaluation.

Generating discussions KPs can be used to trigger and seed small group discussions, by posing questions that will result in a spread of responses and then asking students to discuss and defend their position with their peers

Formal assessment If KPs are assigned to individual users they can be used to formally assess or test a class in either a formative or summative mode. A wide range of question types can be used, for example multiple choice, single best answer,Yes/No or ranking questions.These can be combined with images and even videos to create appropriate test papers. Tests can be taken both formatively, to provide students with examples of future assessments and to test their progress and, under appropriate conditions of invigilation, summatively, in high stakes exams. The teacher can control the data displayed so that for a formative test results will be displayed but not for a summative exam.



Evaluation Evaluating one’s own teaching is a fundamental activity that all teachers should engage in and KPs provide a simple way to do this at the end of a presentation, lecture or course. A series of appropriate questions can be created and audience responses obtained and recorded.

Branching Information obtained from eliciting audience responses to questions, scenarios and issues can be used, if necessary, to modify the presentational sequence and hence to create a ‘branching’ presentation. This requires the teacher to have a degree of flexibility and be willing to modify the trajectory of their presentation appropriately. But it does of course provide a much more learner-centred approach to teaching as it can more easily deal with the needs of the audience.

Case study NICOL AND BOYLE Nicol and Boyle (2003) have recently compared two methods of sequencing discussions using key pads. Method one involves answering a question and voting individually before going on to discuss the responses with a small group of peers. This sequence has been referred to as ‘peer instruction’ (Mazur 1997). The second method asks students to discuss their views in small groups before they individually respond to a question and this process has been called ‘class-wide discussion’ (Dufresne et al. 1996). Table 8.5 provides a comparison of the sequence of activities experienced in both the peer instruction and class-wide discussion methods. Although both processes have been shown to aid learning, Nicol and Boyd’s work has indicated that peer instruction was perceived by their students to be more beneficial to learning than the class-wide discussion sequencing.Teaching staff also found the peer instruction format to be easier to organize and manage in the larger lectures. Intuitively this seems logical. Asking students to think about and answer a question for themselves gives space for all the students to engage in the process and lessens the likelihood that conversations will be dominated by a few. The discussions should be richer and draw upon a more diverse range of views with students having had the time to develop their own positions before being influenced by the thinking of others.




The sequence of activities in peer instruction and classwide discussion

Peer instruction: Mazur Sequence

Class-wide discussion: Dufresne Sequence

1 Concept question posed.

1 Concept question posed.

2 Individual thinking: students given time to think individually (1–2 minutes).

2 Peer discussion: small groups discuss the concept question (3–5 minutes).

3 Students provide individual responses. 4 Students receive feedback – poll of responses presented as histogram display. 5 Peer discussion: students instructed to convince their neighbours that they have the right answer.

3 Students provide individual or group responses. 4 Students receive feedback – poll of responses presented as histogram display. Class-wide discussion: students explain their answers and listen to the explanations of others (facilitated by tutor). 5 Lecturer summarizes and explains ‘correct’ response.

6 Retesting of same concept. 7 Students provide individual responses (revised answer). 8 Students receive feedback – poll of responses presented as histogram display. 9 Lecturer summarizes and explains ‘correct’ response. Source: Nicol and Boyd 2003.

IN SUMMARY By combining the active and interactive techniques described above a lecture can be turned into more than just the transmission of information. Not only will it be a much more stimulating and possibly memorable activity but it will also allow students genuinely to do things rather than merely follow the lecturer doing things.This will enable some of the higher level cognitive outcomes, such as applying knowledge and problem solving, to be achieved.



EXAMPLES FROM DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES Mathematics I sometimes give the students a handout that contains a worked example of the method that I have just explained to them in the first half of the lecture. I ask them to write a similar question (this usually involves the students in swapping numbers in my original). I give them a couple of minutes to do this than ask them to exchange questions with with a person sitting near them in the lecture. They then try to solve their partner’s question.They then pass it back to the question writer to be marked.This means that during the class they are asked to work through two examples (their own and their partner’s) and the students are likely to do this as it involves showing their work to other people. (Based on discussions with a lecturer in maths) Geography I am new to teaching and the only active learning approach I have tried so far is getting the students to vote whether they agree or disagree with points that I present or simple yes/no questions.The first few times I tried this many of the students abstained and didn’t vote either way. I have found that the more you ask them to vote the more people will take part. I am tempted to try ‘reverse voting’, i.e. ask everybody to raise their hands in the first place and to show their voting preference by lowering their hands – I think there is something difficult about making that first move that stops some students from voting. (Based on discussions with a new teacher in geography) Health care I usually use a buzz group in my lectures, just to break things up for the students. I ask quick questions that are intended to make my students link what I am talking about with their experiences on the ward or in practice. It is very important that the relevance of the theory is clear to my students; many are mature students who actually feel very underconfident in the classroom. I think the informality of a buzz group makes some of them feel more comfortable. If I have asked them to draw up a quick list of factors that can contribute to heart disease, I may simply ask for a few suggestions from the group and a few bolder students will



shout things out.Another way I sometimes handle this is to put up a list of the contributing factors on PowerPoint and ask them to give themselves a mark for every one they got – and then add the ones they missed to their notes. It depends how long I have got for class discussion. (From a nurse practitioner in health care) Electrical engineering When I am explaining something complex and complicated, like the way current flows through a particular circuit, I use a diagram technique which seems to work quite well. First I explain the principles to the students and then I show them a diagram which needs to be completed and annotated by drawing arrows or ‘’ or ‘–’ signs to show the direction of the current. I give the students a handout with two small copies of this incomplete diagram and I ask them to have a go at completing the top diagram (either on their own or with a friend). I give them a couple of minutes to do this before putting up a correct and annotated version of the diagram on a slide. They can then check their own work and if they have made a hash of it they can copy down the right answer so they have a neat version for their notes and later revision. It makes the students think about what they are doing rather than just copying everything off the slides. (Post-doctoral researcher in electrical engineering) Medical education I have found that traditionally students are reluctant to individually respond to questions in a large lecture theatre.The act of ‘cold’ pointing or asking serial questions along a row is anxiety-provoking and can be humiliating for some students. Students are often uncertain how to respond and fear a sarcastic remark from the lecturer or sniggers from their peers if wrong. The process actually inhibits any further interactivity. However, if I prime the students and warm them up in some way then they can be more responsive. A friendly introduction, an acknowledgement of questioning anxiety and a promise that there are ‘no stupid answers’ can break the ice and encourage responses to questions addressed generally. Asking a question, allowing students to think about it for a minute and then discuss their answer with their neighbour will also have an ‘ice-breaking’ effect and will elicit better responses.



If students are reluctant to respond to questions individually I don’t find that to be the case en masse. Students in general don’t mind putting their hands up although they sometimes need a little bit of cajoling to make sure everyone is responding. Putting up one’s hand can be used with conventional dichotomous (yes/no, true/false) questions or the multiple-choice variety.The lecturer should display the question on the screen, with the alternative responses, and then give the students a few moments to think and write down their choice. If this is then followed by:‘How many people think the answer is Yes, hands up’, or ‘How many people think the answer is 1, hands up’,‘How many think it’s 2’, etc., a good response should be obtained. (A lecturer in medical education) Medical PBL-based course The PBL process values and encourages active student participation in learning to promote understanding.Thus, I found planning, delivering and evaluating my lecture-based teaching raised a new set of challenges. I needed to mirror the PBL learning environment within a large lecture theatre, moving away from my usual, more passive style of lecturing. My aim was to create a setting where students felt able to question, challenge and discuss concepts that were raised. I no longer had the option of hiding behind the lectern and my slides, take two questions at the end and disappear! A good starting point was to ascertain what the students already knew by asking questions, drawing on the experiences of other students in the group and creating a comfortable environment. This approach activates prior learning, enabling learners to relate new knowledge from my lecture to their existing knowledge. In planning for a lecture in this PBL environment I linked learning to the clinical cases students were studying.This provided relevance not only at the point in time but also to situations students would face when they entered clinical medicine. There is also an opportunity to integrate learning across basic and clinical sciences by using examples to illustrate key points that link back to the case of the week. Depending upon the timing of the lecture there may be a need to ‘not give the game away’. By that I mean that in Session 1 of PBL, trigger text is designed to promote a wide-ranging discussion. If you are lecturing between Sessions 1 and 2 (where further information about the patient/situation is given, for example taking a history)



you do not want to provide information that may lead students to concentrate on one particular area, rather than taking a much wider view of the subject matter – statements such as ‘I am covering this because your case this week features a man who has had a heart attack, when there are many other possible causes of chest pain’ should be avoided. Learning within a PBL system encourages students to be active in the learning process.Therefore my lectures needed to promote active learning. I use strategies including paired discussion, using handouts which the student completes during the lecture or perhaps interactive handsets to gauge a student’s application of knowledge at the beginning and end of the lecture. I encourage students to question me during the lecture, rather than deal with all questions at the end, and I need to ensure I deal with questions in a way that does not belittle students – our PBL mantra is that ‘there are no stupid questions’.This approach may result in constant interruption, which can be a problem, as you may lose the thread or structure of your lecture. This is, I think, particularly daunting for inexperienced lecturers or those who may know their subject area well but lack confidence in lecturing.You also need the skill and confidence to move the lecture along if you are spending too much time on one area. At the end of a lecture I may try to pose a question to promote self-reflection and encourage the student to think about a range of issues – perhaps by trying to lead them to thinking about how they prepared for the lecture – could they do it differently next time? Lecturing within a PBL course had forced me to evaluate how I teach in this situation so that, as a professional teacher, I demonstrate the behaviours and attitudes we try to create within a PBL learning environment. I have enjoyed the challenge and learnt from the experience in terms of my own practice of teaching and learning. I know from talking to other lecturers that most really enjoy the challenge of lecturing in this environment. (Dr Gillian Manning, a physiology lecturer, University of Nottingham) Psychology Dr Steve Draper, Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow finds that using interactive handsets supports his lectures in three ways:



Having a few very simple questions, to check understanding, after each chunk of talking reassures the students they have followed the main points, or tells them which point they should look at again. It seems to give the lecture a feeling of closure for them; and also of community (seeing whether they all got it right, or that quite a lot had trouble; tells them whether and how to talk to each other about it). Responses to questions can be used to steer what you say next. If they all get it right, I speed onwards; if many have trouble I re-explain in more detail. This is obviously a good idea in a revision lecture; but we should probably use this more often to focus the lecture on where the difficulties lie. Handsets can be useful to get discussions going, e.g. set a brain teaser, get them to vote, don’t state the answer, require them to discuss with their neighbours which answers seem best to them.

Using PRS EduCue in genetics I’ve very recently become a convert to using a personal response system to do interactive questions and answers in my lectures. The system consists of infrared student handsets communicating to the PowerPoint questions embedded in my lecture. I first saw it demonstrated at an American conference and realized that for £4,000 I could purchase ninety-five handsets, IR detector, the software and a dedicated laptop to interact with my undergraduate classes.At the time the system had not hit the UK so with a grant from my university’s teaching enhancement scheme I bought a set from the USA. Now this was probably madness, as I am known as not being very computer literate by my colleagues. Luckily I was saved in setting up the system by two wonderful technocrat colleagues. We did have significant teething troubles with the US software that we were originally sent, but this was then replaced with RXShow software from a different company and we were able to roll! RXShow happily includes several template slides from which a technophobe like me was able to construct my own simply by pasting and manipulating in PowerPoint. I was able to paste in figures and questions and to test knowledge as well as opinions and ideas. So how does it work? Well, firstly you set up your laptop or computer connected to the data projector and connected via a USB port to the infrared detector which you Blu-Tack™ to the front of the lecture theatre above head height (just above our theatre whiteboard works!).



Next, the students each collect their numbered responder handset (these can be specifically assigned or given out at random). I have found it very helpful to buy the proper carry-cases for the responders, in which the handsets are set out in numbered ranks, as it really helps a large class of students to quickly pick up specific units. The first slide in the interactive part of the presentation is a ‘register’ showing all the numbers of units in the class as individual ‘tiles’. The students each log in by pressing ‘l’ and their numbered tile changes colour when the receiver has picked up their signal.This can double as the register for the class where students are always assigned the same number unit. A few minutes are required for this stage as there will always be a couple of students in a large class who have a unit with a flat battery or are pointing it the wrong way! Good news is the battery life is long and they’re rechargeable. Also, even in a 200-seat lecture theatre there is good strength of signal to reach a single receiver at the front (except when pointed through someone else’s head!).You can then proceed with ordinary PowerPoint slides or directly to your first question slide. The options for questions are true/false/abstain or multiple choice (with up to nine options, but I use a maximum of five). The students respond using their units and a rolling tally box on the slide records the advancing percentage of respondents. One drawback of a large lecture theatre is that this rarely reaches 100 per cent but all students will feel they have contributed after about one minute of pressing buttons. Clicking to the next slide then pops up a histogram or pie chart (your choice of several designs) showing the percentage responses to each option.You and they can see the split of the vote and you can go through which answer was right. (Wits in the audience who have not previously voted can enjoy pressing buttons to raise the percentage of the last answer as the lecturer advances through all the prior choices as being false!) Other slide formats allow you to click up to half a dozen specified numbered responders only and to ask just those students to answer a question (a bit intimidating!). Another format lets students volunteer to answer a particular question by clicking ‘1’ to volunteer. Neither of these was very popular with the ninety-five second-year undergraduates with whom I’ve piloted the system. However, when asked (by PRS) how many thought the handsets would be useful, or very useful, to aid understanding (used anonymously in lectures without responder numbers being assigned), 83 per cent said yes, 15 per cent were neutral and 2 per cent said no.



I’m realizing that the system has loads of uses, including Week 1 registration meetings with shy freshers (trying to gauge what they really have learned in school) and at academic staff meetings! I’m going to try it in all my undergraduate modules next year (I have a trolley to tote the cases to the lecture hall). The students suggest it is used in a ten-minute session as the end of each topic block (every three lectures or so) to test their knowledge . . . I’m going to see when fatigue sets in or if any of the units disappear (not that they can be used as a TV remote, as I have made a point of explaining!). I like the system and its relative affordability and portability. I’m going to use it in a field station this summer at an evening round-up after a day’s experimenting. Its real advantage is that it can draw out all in a class, even the most shy, to tell you what they think the answer to your questions is.This is great as you can really see ‘if they get it’ before moving on to build their knowledge further. The only drawback I’ve found so far is that without the registering tile showing on each slide students can’t tell each time if their vote has been registered (just the total percentage who have voted shows in a box); however, if they keep pressing they will get through! I’m currently recommending PRS to all my friends. (Professor Liz Sockett, Genetics, University of Nottingham, personal communication)

FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Andreson, L. (1994) Lecturing to Large Groups, Staff and Educational Development Association Paper 81. Birmingham: Staff and Educational Development Association. Biggs, J. (1999a) ‘Enriching large-class teaching’, in Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Collett, P. (2003) The Book of Tells. London: Bantam. An up-to-date book on body language.


ACTIVE LEARNING IN LECTURES Cown, J. (1998) ‘How should I get started’, in On Becoming an Innovative University Teacher. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Davies, P. (2003) Practical Ideas for Enhancing Lectures, Staff and Educational Development Association Special 13. Birmingham: Staff and Educational Development Association.

USEFUL WEBSITES The Social Policy and Social Work LTSN – SWAP website offers advice and suggestions on using interactive lecturing. Office of Instructional Consultation, University of California, Santa Barbara. Add active learning to large classes: resources for scientists teaching science website. The site provides an up-todate bibliography of research articles on active learning and large class teaching. Glasgow University.

Using handsets at (audience response systems)


Chapter 9

Podcasting and e-lectures

INTRODUCTION In this chapter the use of technology to support the design, delivery and effective study of lecture material outside the lecture theatre is explored. The chapter will focus on the use of podcasting lectures and the development of e-lecturing in higher and further education. The experience of lecturers who have begun to podcast their classes and the lessons they have learnt are discussed in a series of short case studies drawn from disciplines as diverse as maths, philosophy and geography. Recent research into the use students are making of these new learning resources is also reviewed as part of a discussion of the impact podcasting could have on the traditional lecture. WHAT IS A PODCAST? Podcasts are collections of audio (and video) digital files that are placed on the Internet and made available to download onto personal computers or portable media players (such as ‘iPods’ – from which the terms podcast and podcasting were originally derived by combining the words ‘iPod’ with ‘broadcasting’). Students can download the digital files as they wish to and one at a time, or they can subscribe to a course podcast and have a lecture series of recordings transferred to their players whenever they connect their MP3 players to their computer.This is also commonly referred to as ‘coursecasting’ (Jones, 2006). An important feature of the podcast is that it is downloaded (not streamed) which means that you don’t have to be connected to the Internet to listen but can take it away and listen anywhere. Podcasts therefore allow students the flexibility to study lecture material when and where they want, for example whilst out jogging or walking or catching the bus to university.



Podcasting is different from other kinds of online media delivery because it is based on a subscription model. This means that a student user can ‘subscribe’ to a feed (such as a university course feed) and use ‘podcatching’ software that checks for any new content and downloads it automatically. This model suits the provision of a weekly ‘lecture’ or providing timed guidance or feedback to students as and when it is needed. The originator of the podcast, or the ‘Podfather’, as he is affectionately referred to, is Adam Curry. He was a video jockey on MTV and was interested in using the technology to enable the downloading of audio broadcasts onto iPods (Campbell 2005). Now many radio and television programmes have associated podcasts. Universities are now capturing public lectures and keynote presentations as podcasts and making them publicly available as downloads. THE TECHNOLOGY Audio material is created in a digital format using an audio recording programme (such as ‘Garageband’ or ‘Audacity’). It is then saved, usually as an MP3 file, and then published to the web for subsequent downloading. Podcasting uses web-based RSS technology (Really Simple Syndication) to transmit material. The advantage of using an RSS feed is that once a student has subscribed to a course podcast site and linked to the feed, they are effectively ‘always on’ and so any new updates that are published from the course site will automatically and instantaneously be found, recognized and retrieved (Hargis and Wilson 2005; Ractham and Zhang 2006).

Phase 1

Creating the podcast (save as an MP3 file)

Phase 2

Publishing the podcast (to RSS feed and either a hosting website or a VLE)

Phase 3

Downloading the podcast (use aggregator software such as iTunes to capture the podcast and then synch with MP3 player)

■ FIGURE 9.1

The process of podcasting.

Source: Adapted from Dale 2007 and Huann and Thong 2006.



The process of transferring the material to a portable device (such as an Apple iPod) is known as synching and some devices require specific ‘aggregator’ software to do this, (e.g. the Apple iPod requires iTunes). Many other devices behave just like a memory stick when plugged into a computer and the material can simply be copied to them. In the educational environment an alternative mode of delivery is to upload the podcast onto a virtual learning environment (such as Blackboard or WebCT) and students can then either listen to them from the VLE directly or download to their iPods from there. SOME MORE TERMINOLOGY In this chapter we are primarily talking about audio material, as its use is widespread and students can access this material and download to any MP3 player, which are now very widely used. ■

Vodcasting (‘video on demand casting’) or videocasting This is when the digital material being distributed is video rather than audio. It is not as widely used because it requires students to view the material on a computer. Screencasting This is when the material is visual but has been generated and captured from a computer screen. For example, a Word handout or a set of PowerPoint lecture notes. Again students would usually need to access and view screencasts with a computer. E-lectures By combining a podcast and a screencast it is possible to deliver an ‘e-lecture’. So a lecturer can screencast their PowerPoint slides and perhaps some digital photographs, together with an accompanying linked commentary. So the students can see and hear a synchronized delivery of a lecture at their computers. More on this later in the chapter.

WHY PODCAST LECTURES? A growing number of teachers are now seeing a range of advantages in capturing their lectures as podcasts and making them available as MP3 files for their students to download (e.g. Cambell 2005; Morgan 2006).



Podcasting lectures is seen as beneficial because: ■ ■ ■ ■

■ ■

Students can re-visit parts of the lecture that they didn’t fully understand. Students report finding them very valuable when it comes to revision. Many dyslexic students, and others who find it difficult to take effective lecture notes, find them particularly useful. Non-native English speakers have said that the ability to ‘hear again’ removed much of the stress of attending lectures in a ‘foreign language’. Students who miss lectures have a way of gaining at least some of the learning experience. It may also provide a richer way of supporting distance learners and those who cannot access traditional lectures because of geography, timing or cost.

One aspect of podcasting that is very under-researched at the moment is the impact that it has on the teacher. Can the process be used to evaluate and further develop teaching skills? For example, does re-listening to podcasts help a teacher to improve and develop skills? Or does thinking about how to structure and organize the podcasts feedback into thinking about the way that live teaching sessions can be organized? However, the use of this newer technology is also triggering greater levels of discussion about the purposes and benefits of the traditional ‘live’ lectures per se. If the recorded lecture is easy to provide, cost effective for a mass higher education system and flexible and convenient for students, why not just deliver all our lectures just once, record them and thereafter make them available only as MP3 files to be downloaded by future generations of students? In other words, replace lectures with podcasts (Hearnshaw 2006).

TAKE A MINUTE Later we will return to this question but you might find it helpful to pause for a moment and consider the reasons why you give lectures and which of these purposes could be met via a podcast of your lecture.



SOME IMPORTANT ISSUES TO CONSIDER AT THE START One interesting issue relating to podcasting is that of intellectual property rights and access to your lectured words. Or in other words, where might your words end up and who owns them? At an institutional and ‘systems’ level universities can decide whether to make podcasts freely available to everybody via the web (as Berkley does in the USA) or to make them only available to registered students, supplied with appropriate passwords, from behind the university’s firewall. The latter is the more common approach at present. However, the ease with which podcasts can be downloaded permanently and passed from one person to another makes this technology very different from streamed audio recordings or many other forms of computer facilitated learning. Those wishing to use podcasting need to first check their university’s policy to ascertain ownership of lectured material and then acknowledge that once their podcasts have gone live they have very little control over who will hear what they say. As with other ways and forms of recording lectures (for example, by a student with a disability individually taping a lecture) it might be sensible to ask students to sign a user’s agreement stating that podcasts will be used for their personal study only but how effective this would be remains to be tested. Some American universities are exploring the use of an alternative copyright approach, namely a ‘creative commons license’ that would allow individuals to copy or distribute a podcast only if they credited the university and the relevant lecturer (Read 2007). INSTITUTIONAL SYSTEMS AND SUPPORT So far in the UK the majority of universities have adopted a relatively individualistic and ad hoc approach to the development of podcasting and e-lecturing. Many have provided the technical support and access to appropriate hardware and software but have sought to encourage and support the individual enthusiast rather than trying to implement a university wide requirement or system.There are of course exceptions to this, for example Newcastle University’s approach to language learning has been extended by the development of an extensive array of podcasted audio files in many languages (linguacast@Newcastle University) and the university library tours are now also podcasted in a range of different languages.



In the USA there are a range of approaches being used. For example: ■

Duke University handed out iPods to all new students and have explored a number of classroom applications including podcasting lectures (Read 2004). Purdue University at West Lafayette ran a large podcasting, or coursecasting, project that grew out of an earlier library venture that provided audio cassette recordings of missed lectures to students. From 2005 the university began providing web-based podcasts on more than seventy courses and has implemented a smooth system of technical support that means all the lecturer has to do is wear a microphone when teaching and technical experts do all the rest to get the lecture online. At the University of Michigan, in the Ann Arbor School of Dentistry, to reduce workload on staff some students have been employed to record the lectures, via the lecture theatre’s own sound system, and then to put digital recordings of them online. At Stanford University a collaboration with Apple has led to the use of iTunes to host and provide access to a set of podcasts and videocasts, some of which are publicly available at http://

HOW TO PODCAST The whole technical process of producing and publishing a podcast and then receiving and listening to it, has been neatly described, in a six step process, by McElearney (2006), as shown in Table 9.1. DIFFERENT LECTURE PODCASTING FORMATS Academics are choosing to utilize this new technology in very different ways and to support very different course designs. 1 2

Whole lectures Some simply put on a microphone and record their whole lectures (warts and all) and broadcast them with very little editing as whole lecture podcasts. Summaries Some lecturers prefer to produce short summary recordings that seek to provide a brief overview and




A six-point guide to podcasting

Producing and delivering podcasts 1 Record and edit material.

Record, using a microphone and audio recording/editing software, directly onto a computer or via a portable recorder. (e.g. Audacity software)

2 Publish material on the Internet.

Requires access to a web server and file transfer software (FTP). (e.g. WebCT File Manager, Dreamweaver File Manager, etc.)

3 Produce RSS feed (optional).

Used for subscription or ‘course’ based material (it checks the site and automatically forwards any newly added material). Can be produced by hand-coding in XML, or by online services, e.g. FeedBurner.

Receiving and listening to podcasts 4 Subscribe to RSS feed (optional).

Requires an Internet connected computer and podcatching software to locate and manage downloading of new material. (e.g. iTunes or Juice software)

5 Download.

As in 4. or more simply via following menu instructions in a VLE. (‘right click – save target as . . .’ approach from within WebCT)

6 Listen to and sync to MP3 player.

On Windows use Windows Media Player to listen to media files, including MP3 files, or sync to an MP3 player. Generic MP3 players can be used like a memory stick with basic file copying procedures. iPod and Mac users can subscribe, download and sync using iTunes software.



the highlights from their classes. However, there are different foci that summaries can take, e.g. a b




Basic summaries Here the lecturer revisits difficult concepts and tricky explanations for those who may have had difficulty following these the first time around. Advanced summaries Here the lecturer recaps the lecture in order to flag further readings and additional material for more able, or advanced, students who wish to explore themes or topics in greater depth. Dual approach By producing both basic and advanced type summaries a lecturer would be able to support the study of a mixed ability class with great confidence, knowing that they were providing follow-up learning resources applicable to a range of learning levels.

Pre-release Lecturers who wish to help their students to orientate to the lecture and be better placed to focus on the most important points they make may produce podcasts of the main learning outcomes or pointer questions that would help the students to explore their current understanding or levels of understanding before stepping into the lecture theatre. Revision notes Lectures may approach podcasting with ‘assessments spectacles’ on and use the podcasts to give revision notes or to link lecture topics to examination questions or question types.

RECORDING YOUR LECTURES As outlined above there are in essence two approaches when it comes to capturing your lectures. The first and simplest is to wear a microphone and record your lecture, live, as you give it, and podcast the whole thing or an edited and tidied version of the real thing. The second is to make special recordings, away from the lecture theatre, either of lecture summaries or commentaries. Recording lectures, summaries and commentaries

How? Sitting alone, maybe in their office or somewhere quiet where they won’t be interrupted, the podcasting lecturer faces a big challenge



(Campbell 2005). How to engage the listener? How to imitate the energy and intensity that live communication and live lecturing can generate. Student listeners will be turned off by a flat monotone and a droning intonation.They will lose interest quickly and switch off both their minds and MP3 players.Without the added zest of lively body language, gestures and eye contact the podcasting lecturer is relying much more heavily on the animation of their voice alone. So tone, volume, use of pauses, repetition, emphasis and clarity are going to be far more important than usual. Some podcasters have to picture themselves in the lecture theatre, stand up to speak and gesticulate as if really lecturing in order to capture this effectively. However, at odds with this approach is the need to reduce any background noise and to try and speak at a fairly consistent volume to produce a high-quality audio product.

What with? Use a unidirectional microphone, which will only pick up sound coming from one direction and so cut down on background noise. The quality of the microphone is likely to be the single biggest factor in the accoustic quality of the end product so buy or borrow the best you can. Try holding the microphone about 15cm from you to begin with and see how that sounds, and try different holding position to get the best pick up and clarity.

Who? Dale (2007) argues that: Students are more likely to have a closer relationship with what is being broadcast if they can identify with the person voicing it. Such a viewpoint would argue that the teacher responsible for the course should produce the podcasts and seek to build on the face-to-face relationship that maybe developed between lecturer and students elsewhere in the course.

What to include? It is important to try to paint a verbal picture by incorporating a range of colourful examples and verbal illustrations of the points lecturers



are making. The need to grab attention and connect with the listening students is clear. A lecturer may also wish to incorporate questions or tasks for the students to consider, accompanied by a short pause in the podcast or the instruction to ‘turn off for a moment’ as they think through their responses. The ability to prompt and focus reflection can actually be more affective and intense in this audio environment than in a live lecture. Some teachers have incorporated a set of ‘self-testing’ questions at the end of a lecture podcast (Dale 2007) through which students can assess their own levels of understanding or be challenged to think beyond the scope of the podcast.

How long? What is an appropriate length for a podcast? Many experienced podcasters recommend between 3 and 15 minutes but the answer to this question really depends on how you are expecting your students to use and listen to them. However, by chunking lectures into shorter segments you give the students greater flexibility so that they can listen to a batch of podcasts, one after another, if they want a protracted and concentrated study period or they can study in ‘bite-sized’ pieces if they just have short pieces of time available (for example a short bus journey).

What to podcast? Advice seems to suggest trying to avoid particularly complex, dense or technical material that includes lots of names, dates, facts and figures (Ferrigno 2007). It is also suggested that limiting the focus of individual podcasts in order to make one or two main points or alternatively to explain individual concepts or ideas, that you anticipate students to struggle with, may also be beneficial.

Organizing content within a podcast When it comes to structuring the content of individual podcasts the advice seems to be to begin gradually and ease into the complexity of the subject and as with traditional lecturing to move from a simple overview to more complex detail. Keeping all podcasts in a lecture series to a similar format may also be helpful to students so they know what to expect. A suggested structure could be:



First Second Third

Context: explain the content and running order of the podcast and introduce the topics, themes or key points. Content: provide the body of the explanation with appropriate emphasis and examples moving into the more complex, conceptual, theoretical, difficult material. Closure: give a conclusion and/or summary of the main points and issues. Link to the next podcast in the series and/or further information.

Organizing content between podcasts? Actually this is potentially a very big question that can relate to course design and decisions about how you ideally would like your students to study. For example, do you want your students to follow a specific learning route and progress linearly through a sequenced set of podcasts or would you like them to be able to take their own, individual and flexible, path through the material that you provide? General guidance is to label and number the podcasts in a series and if possible give them titles that accurately reflect the content. Some map out the content visually and diagrammatically for their students whilst others order and list.Whichever method is used the aim is to make the podcasts navigable so students can both quickly find what they are looking for (particularly when it comes to revision and recapping) and also to appreciate how one podcast relates to another. TABLE 9.2

Supporting a range of learning needs via podcasting

Podcast type

Students’ learning question

A pre-lecture podcast

‘How can I maximize my learning in the lecture, what should I focus my notetaking on, etc.?’

A lecture-linking podcast

‘How do I connect what I learnt in the lecture to . . . the laboratory class, the seminar, the fieldcourse, the essay assignment etc.?’

A self-assessment podcast

‘Did I really understand the lecture? Can I use and apply what I have learnt?’

A lecture extension podcast

‘Can I find out more or get some more cases or examples?’



LECTURE PODCASTING AND LEARNING? As with all forms of teaching it is vital to have clear learning goals when you podcast and to design the resource accordingly. The most common form of lecture podcast is the lecture summary podcast, in which the lecturer simply provides a succinct overview of the main learning points from the lecture. However, a teacher may choose to use podcasting to support a range of other learning needs and questions in relation to the lecture (see Table 9.2). ‘BUT WILL THE STUDENTS STILL COME TO LECTURES?’ AND OTHER WORRIES Debate between colleagues about the relative pros and cons of this new teaching approach is lively. Some see nothing but benefits and a more satisfied student ‘audience’ whilst others see it as undermining the very essence of ‘good teaching’.

If students can download lectures will they come to class? Will podcasting encourage laziness and skipping lectures? Will podcasting lectures encourage surface learning and encourage a view that students just need to memorize their podcasts?

These are commonly raised concerns with academic colleagues but an alternative view is also prevalent in our teaching communities and succinctly given by G. Marc Loudon, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Purdue University: If a podcast can capture everything you do in class, you deserve to have nobody coming. Or by Shirley Alexander, Dean at the University College of Technology, Sydney, who is against a university rollout of podcasting, fearing that lecturers will begin to reduce the interactive activities that they include in their lectures, because they cannot be recorded. She says: A lecture is not just a dissemination of information . . . any teacher that can be replaced by a podcast should be.



Maybe a more valid concern is that podcasting is mainly an audio delivery technology and so students who have a hearing impairment may not be able to use it well or at all. This together with the fact that those who podcast are rarely sound engineers but recording amateurs and so the quality of the final audio material may also be less than ideal. VIEWS FROM STUDENTS In a number of recent surveys students have tended to report their general liking of lecture podcasts. However, dig a little below this initial overarching positive response and you discover a number of interesting issues. For example, it is very different to listen to and use a podcast of a lecture that you have previously attended. It is relatively easy to identify and ‘fast-forward’ to locate sections of the lecture that you wish to return to and re-listen to. As a student this means concentrating and listening in quite short and focused sections of the lecture. This is a very different experience to attempting to listen to a whole lecture that was originally delivered to be heard all in one sitting.To sit down, put on your headphones and listen to a one-hour lecture (for example) and hold your concentration to the themes being interwoven and the ‘story’ being developed can be quite challenging.Additionally, MP3 files are not scannable, and this means that a listener cannot search for and jump to key words and phrases that they may be particularly interested in. So an alternative approach is to chop lectures up into a series of interlinking and connected podcasts that the student can use more flexibly – but how does this affect the learning and the experience of learning? AUDIO IN HIGHER EDUCATION Long before we podcasted, we taped, and so there is a long history of the use of audio-based learning in both face-to-face and distance learning higher education. Studies in the mid-1980s of the UK’s Open University distance learning provision identified a number of features that students liked about audio learning (Durbridge 1984, reported in Edirisingha et al. 2007): ■ ■

responding to sound, for example understanding spoken language, analysing music, hearing the teacher’s voice; listening in on conversations, perhaps about some part of their courses;



being ‘talked through’ tasks in the lab or workshop, even on the computer; hearing facts, discussions and opinions from experts in their field; being encouraged by the voice of somebody they know and respect.

FURTHER USES OF PODCASTING TO SUPPORT LEARNING – SOME AVENUES TO EXPLORE Teachers and researchers are now beginning to explore a wide range of educational uses for the Podcast and to investigate the impact these may have on the efficiency of learning and the experience of learning. Some are using podcasting to support the integration and support of distance learners. For example, Lee & Chan (2007) report that the provision of supplementary podcasts, in which more advanced students hold short discussions on topical issues, has greatly reduced the anxiety experienced by distance learners and has aided their academic integration into university life. In addition, the student listeners saw the podcasts as being especially effective in clarifying and enhancing their understanding of the subject; providing backup/reinforcement of what they had learnt; as well as supplying guidance on the direction in which to channel their study efforts. (Lee & Chan: 2007: 85) Hargis and Wilson (2005) focused instead on the opportunities the new technology gave to teachers to encourage deep learning, conceptual understanding and improve longer term retention. They spoke of podcasting being used by a teacher to share ideas in a ‘real, raw and spontaneous way’ that improved attention and learner motivation.They also saw the potential of students creating their own podcasts and using this process as a way of reflecting on their learning. Others have argued that the use of podcasting also aids the development of key or transferable skills, in particular, communication skills, time management and organisational skills together with a range of critical thinking and problem solving skills (Baird and Fisher 2006). A more contentious area of research is the way in which students with different ‘learning styles’ engage with podcasting. The debate over the



usefulness of ‘learning styles’ rages on (Coffield et al. 2004a, 2004b), with many educationalists pointing to the lack of robust evidence and lack of validation for learning styles and the models on which they are founded. Podcasting can also be used to: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

capture special events such as conference keynotes and external speakers; record interviews with subject experts and researchers in the field; provide examples of practice – such as giving a business pitch or verbal feedback; give feedback on class assignments or group projects; provide listening practice in music, languages (pronunciation), medicine (heart sounds), etc.

E-LECTURES E-lectures aim to provide the online equivalence of the live, face to face delivered lecture or oral presentation. They commonly incorporate a presentation, delivered textually, orally and sometimes visually, interactive tasks and links to other learning resources and materials. In essence the e-lecture is a re-usable learning package, provided online, which students can access any time and from any networked computer. Wierzbicki described an e-lecture as an electronic lecture unit which contains at least one integrated continuous media component (audio or video). (Wierzbicki 2003) One common approach is to provide PowerPoint slides and visually presented material and align them with an audio commentary which explains the slides.This is known as a ‘pointcast’. The e-lecture can be stopped and started and replayed as often as the student wishes. This, together with the inherent flexibility provided by e-lecturing, in that the lecturer and the students can be separated in both space and time (‘asynchronous learning’), is seen by some as an improvement on traditional lecturing. However, this ‘benefit’ can also be seen, by some, as a deficiency.The fact that the teacher isn’t present when the learner is learning means that something is lost. What is lost depends on expectations surrounding



TAKE A MINUTE What do you think? What are the relative merits of live and online lectures?

‘traditional lectures’ but it could be the social, the present, the ability to read body language and gestures, the sense of being part of a learning community. How much these factors affect the learner and the process of learning is much debated, with those in favour of e-lecturing arguing that online communities and networks thrive and can be seen to promote real social interactions and those against fearing further erosion of the teacher– student relationship and the ability to influence, inspire, motivate others. Designing and preparing e-lectures Two approaches are common, first to record a live lecture and put it online, second to construct a learning package that the students work through at their computer.

Recording live lectures Not every live lecture can be recorded and then made available online as an e-lecture. The sound and visual quality may be adversely affected by the style of delivery or the acoustics of the lecture theatre. To capture a live lecture can be a technically challenging thing to do especially in the hands of a novice filmmaker! However, the practice is most commonly used to capture a key note lecture or the presentation made by a visiting speaker and with the help of audio-visual services. However, by placing a video recorder on a tripod and beginning to record once the students have settled, a video recording can be produced. The lecturer may have to adapt their style to ensure that they remain in shot and don’t obscure any images they are projecting onto a screen or writing on a board. Although the direction microphone included in standard video cameras is likely to be very competent in recording the lecturer’s voice it may be limited in capturing a student’s question from the back of the lecture theatre – a minor problem easily solved by the lecture repeating the question before answering it.



To edit or not to edit this is the question – putting a whole videoed or taped lecture online is the quickest alternative for a busy lecturer. However, the ‘one take’ production is unlikely to yield a flawless product and tidying up and shortening may be desirable in an ideal world.A teacher can choose to edit still further and section their lecture into more searchable, shorter segments following key topics or learning points. Such ‘recorded’ lectures are rarely used to replace live face-to-face lectures but rather to provide a revision, catch-up, or review opportunity for students.

Building an e-lecture package Although the initial investment is greater for the teacher following this option the end product can be used as a stand alone learning experience more readily. IN THEIR OWN WORDS – CASE STUDIES FROM PODCASTERS Case study DR ANDREW FISHER, DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY Why did I start to podcast? Well, colleagues and the press were talking about it (‘Podcasts set to knock lectures off the podium’, Times Higher Education, 26 October 2007) and I’m nosey and inquisitive. After some further investigation it seemed to me that there were six main reasons to go ahead. First, I wanted to give students the chance to revisit issues in my lectures. This was particularly useful given the dense and often subtle nature of my subject area. Second, students sometimes miss lectures. Third, it seemed a useful revision resource. Fourth, as a dyslexic student myself, I found that trying to take notes whilst listening in lectures was near impossible. I judged then that podcasting the lectures would give dyslexic students a chance to concentrate in lectures and then take notes in their own time. Fifth, the amount of footfall to my door would decrease, if I could direct students to the recordings. Finally, I would be able to reflect and improve my lecture style and technique by listening to myself. The kit I use is one of a number of high quality recorders that our institution has available. It was highly portable and easily used. Basically, you plug it in,


PODCASTING AND E-LECTURES attach the radio mike, check your recording volumes and you are ready to start the lecture.To upload the recording all I did was connect the recording unit to the computer’s USB and then simply click and drag the MP3 file to where I wanted it. I uploaded my podcasts to the content management system used by the university, which also contained all my other lecture material, slides, handouts, web links, etc. I started podcasting simply by recording my lectures in their entirety. The podcasts were available a short time after the lectures. One small thing I had to remember was to repeat any questions asked by students during lectures so that they could be recorded. But apart from that I found the whole process very simple. I believe that there are four possible worries people have about podcasting. First, is it something that is actually wanted? Second, would the technology be a stumbling block? Third, would students give up coming to lectures? As one colleague said, ‘No one will turn up, they will just listen at home in the bath.’ Finally, how can we stop the podcasts becoming public? After all, there is something reassuring about the unaccountable and transient nature of what one says in the lecture theatre! These are my findings after two years of podcasting. First, the students most certainly do want them. As two commented: I wish they had been available in the past. It’s hard to get all the information down during a lecture and in harder modules; they are very helpful for revision. They give me a sense of security: lectures can feel transient but this way I can fill in gaps I may have in my notes. Second, there have been no complaints about the technology. Third, it hasn’t been the case that student numbers have dropped off – lectures haven’t been ‘knocked off the podium’. Finally, access to the podcasts has been password protected as they are kept on the university’s content management system. In general it has been very helpful for me to think about things more from the student’s point of view. I have now started to vary how I use podcasting. As well as recording the whole lecture I also record bite-sized chunks of information.These include such things as study skills, explaining key ideas and concepts, giving generic feedback, etc. One thing I attempted but abandoned was embedding the audio files in a PowerPoint presentation. I would create a program in which the slides automatically ran through in sync with the audio of the lecture. This is technically


PODCASTING AND E-LECTURES pretty easy. However, I discovered that for the students the effort and technology required to run the program outweighed the perceived benefits. Podcasting has forced me to ask myself various questions. What is a successful lecture? What is it to communicate effectively? Do we even need lectures? Although I don’t have satisfactory answers to such questions, the process of reflection surely must be a good thing for me and my students.

Case study PODCASTING IN ECONOMICS, DR. C.W. MORGAN I have been lecturing on a compulsory year one module in economics for a number of years and while I have altered the content and the nature of the assessment over time, I have not experimented as much with the delivery of material. Like many academics, moving from OHP transparencies to PowerPoint and then to mounting these on a web page has been the path of transition so far trod – somewhat mainstream but nonetheless a reflection of all that time allowed for. Moving to podcasting (or at least the use of audio) was quite a significant change and produced a surprising outcome for me. How did this situation arise? In essence it came from a move on my part to reflect more closely on the delivery of material not only within the classroom but also beyond. The class is relatively large – over 250 most years – and is quite mixed in composition in that 25 per cent are non-UK students but also that the approaches to learning are varied and not always best served by ‘traditional’ didactic means of teaching. In addition, due to taking a wider university involvement in the strategic development of e-learning I began to consider different ways in which I could support student learning that went beyond the usual means. The use of virtual learning environments, online assessments and so forth offered opportunities that I hadn’t really considered before. Specifically, the university had engaged in a project to encourage the use of audio in teaching and learning under the auspices of its e-learning strategy. Within this, two strands of activity were identified. The first was to use interviews with academics to promote work within academic schools to the wider world.The second element was focused internally and was aimed at encouraging academic staff to consider how they could use audio with support from a central team of leaning technologists. To that end, a number of simple recording kits were purchased and made available across the campuses of the university for anybody to hire. Coupled with a bespoke ‘uploader’ piece of software that allowed file transfer from the recorder straight onto a PC and then to a server, this made the process for recording very easy.


PODCASTING AND E-LECTURES I decided that I would like to use audio in small, five-minute chunks based either on key points that arose in lectures or an activity associated with the lecture content. Both would be departures from previous approaches and both presented challenges of deciding what was appropriate, what would work and what style would be needed to ensure value for the students.Why this approach? Simply I felt that long slabs of audio would be unattractive to the students and equally would take too much of my time to prepare.That was where I was wrong! My initial concerns centred on how I could best create material for the podcasts (strictly, these were not going to be podcasts as I was not going to have subscriptions to them or provide an RSS feed). Spending a lot of time creating files that ultimately would not be used did not appeal so I thought the best solution was to use material from the current year’s lectures for next year’s students to benefit from. As such, I hired the recording kit, learned how to use it in five minutes (I did say it was simple!) and then turned up for my lecture looking like an extra from Star Trek with the recorder slung over my shoulder. I explained to the students what I was doing and then proceeded to lecture. The process worked – I isolated the audio file and got it onto my computer and then thought that all I needed to do now was complete my lectures and review them in the vacation to decide what to use next year. After only three or four lectures though I was approached by a handful of international students who made a very polite request – could they please have access to my recordings? I was very surprised that they wanted to have the full fifty minute files but they insisted that was what they wanted. I then raised the question in the lecture of how many students would like access to the files. A reasonable number said yes they would, but by no means the majority. So I agreed that I would upload the files on WebCT for them to listen to. In doing so, a number of concerns crossed my mind. First, after comments from colleagues, would this lead to a reduction in attendance at lectures as students knew they would get the files? Second, how would the files relate to the slides I already mounted on WebCT? Finally, how would the students really use them to get value without wasting their own time? The first could only be answered at the end of the module and while I don’t take formal registers I did not see any drop off in attendance at all so my fears were unfounded on that point. The second point provoked an interesting tussle in my mind about what was best. One option was to use a software package that could synchronize the slides with audio and provide a transcript as well. My feeling was that while this would be polished and look better, it was a step too far as it would make the student passive. What I wanted was for the students to think about what they were


PODCASTING AND E-LECTURES listening to and learn from that experience. As such I decided simply to provide the raw audio file alongside the slides and then let the student work out the relationship between the two. This possibly might have helped with the attendance issue as it could be argued that the more polished the material presented after the event was, the less likely they were to attend. I haven’t tested that hypothesis. Following from this, I was keen to find out how the students used the materials. From both anecdotal and formalized sources such as student evaluation forms, it appeared that the approach was very popular. International students really appreciated the opportunity to review what they had heard in the lectures as they did not always understand first time or missed points due to vocabulary issues. More generally, students suggested that if they had struggled in the lecture with the concepts, hearing them again was more helpful than going to the textbook in the first instance. Both outcomes were pleasing but again were not outcomes I had expected when I first thought about using audio. Would I do this again? Yes I would, although ironically it probably distracted me from being more creative in my use of audio in the following year. Equally, I could not necessarily use the same files for the following cohort as the lectures did not always map perfectly. Some colleagues were a little surprised when the issue of when other modules would start to employ similar approaches was raised in staff–student meetings, and were not always grateful to me for that! Overall, this was a very positive experience, with little extra time commitment but with significant positive outcomes from the students, and I hope to explore the use of audio for more specific activities in the years to come.

Case study USING A TABLET PC AND AUDIO PODCASTS IN MATHEMATICS, DR JOEL FEINSTEIN I began using a tablet PC to present my undergraduate module on mathematical analysis in autumn 2006–7. Originally, my main aim was that I would have a complete record of the notes that I had written in class, and that I could make these written notes available to the students immediately after each class. In addition to this, data projection screens are often relatively large and this can make it easier for students further back in the room to read the written notes. Later one of my third year students asked for permission to make audio recordings of my lectures, and I felt that this could be a valuable additional resource for the class. I obtained some high quality digital recording equipment in order to make these recordings myself and began podcasting.



Teaching methodology For my lectures, I prepare pdf slides including the basic outline of the material to be covered, but with gaps where I can add material. I then import these slides into Windows Journal so that they can be annotated in class. I issue the students with single-sided copies of the slides (suitably scaled).This allows plenty of room for students to make their own notes during lectures. Audio recordings are fairly straightforward to produce. However, it is generally sensible to pause the recording when the students are discussing problems among themselves. I make all the module materials available to students via the module web pages, I make the annotated slides available in pdf format and the audio recordings available in MP3 format. It is important to make sure that it is easy for the students to match the audio to the slides. This is mostly a matter of including the relevant information on the web pages, but sometimes I may include some additional written and/or verbal comments to help the listener find their place. By the end of the module, this generated a substantial collection of teaching resources. So I am trying something new and this year I made available to the students all of last year’s audio podcasts and annotated slides from lectures. I then issued the students with a schedule of what material we would cover in every class, and asked the students to listen to the audio podcasts and read the annotated slides in their own time. This has changed my ‘traditional lecture’ and these classes are now a mixture of examples classes using problem sheets and less structured question and answer sessions on pre-studied material.

Advantages and disadvantages Feedback from the students confirms that there are many advantages to the students using technology in these ways. ■

Students have access to a full record of everything that was written and said in each class. In particular, they can check their notes immediately and avoid losing time trying to understand something that does not make sense. Students may miss lectures for good cause, such as illness or important job interviews.These students appreciate the opportunity to have access to the lecture materials. Students who are not native English speakers appreciate having the audio podcasts, as this gives them a chance to listen again to portions of the lecture where they may have missed comments. Especially in rooms with large data projection screens, the students find that the writing is large and clear, and often clearer than more traditional means of presenting lectures (on blackboards).



Some students with dyslexia have found the use of the tablet PC and the resulting provision of material on the web particularly beneficial. For some interviews relating to this, see the web page www.nottingham.

However, students have also identified some disadvantages: ■ ■

The pace of lectures may be reduced. This was especially true when I was first getting to grips with the technology. There is a limit to how much material can be displayed on the screen at one time. This is usually less than would remain visible on a set of blackboards/whiteboards, and can occasionally lead to somewhat distracting scrolling up and down in order to refer to earlier material. To some extent this can be addressed by modifying the viewing scale used (easy to do at any point in the class, and particularly helpful when the data projection screen is large) or by using lecture rooms with dual data projector facilities. Probably a better solution, but rather expensive, would be to make use of facilities such as an electronic flipchart system like Thunder (, in order to have several screens visible at the same time. The microphone does not always pick up the students’ own questions. It is best to routinely repeat these questions for the sake of the recording, as well as for any students present who may not have heard the question.

There are clearly some disadvantages and costs associated with this use of technology, however, the major cost is probably in staff time and nerves: ■

■ ■

It does not take long to get started with a tablet PC and a digital voice recorder. However, it does take some time to decide on the best settings for the software to fit your purposes. You need to allow a few minutes of extra time before the start of each class in order to set up the hardware and software. It can be nerve-wracking if there is a problem with the software or hardware in the middle of a teaching session, and this can also affect the pace of the teaching. Exporting and converting the files after the lecture and placing them on the web usually takes me between fifteen and thirty minutes per one-hour lecture. However, I often take the opportunity to make minor improvements to the annotated slides, and this adds time.


PODCASTING AND E-LECTURES Overall, I have found this use of technology satisfying and productive. I am very pleased with the set of module materials that I have generated, and the feedback from the students on these materials is overwhelmingly positive. If you have the time, resources and energy available, you and the students should find this style of teaching highly rewarding.

Technical details The tablet PC that I currently use for my lectures is a Toshiba Portégé running Windows XP, Adobe Acrobat Professional and Windows Journal. I have found that it is often worth passing my pdf files through Acrobat first before converting them to Journal note format, as this can give improved results. For the audio podcasts, I currently use an Olympus DS-50 digital voice recorder. Unfortunately, this only records in wma format, so I use a freeware converter (free MP3 Wma Converter from to convert the resulting files into MP3 format. I prefer not to edit the MP3 files, as this can be very time-consuming. However, when such editing is essential, I have found the freeware MP3DirectCut from very easy to use. For further updates see Joel’s blog at http://explainingmaths.

FURTHER INFORMATION This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. The use of podcasting in education is actively being researched and evaluated in on-going projects. For example: 1 2

The Podagogy Project at The University of Wolverhampton. Details at Level54877. The Impala Project (Informal Mobile Podcasting And Learning Adaptation project) funded by the HEA and directed by Professor Gilly Salmon at Leicester University. Details at

For great and detailed advice on making audio recordings see guidance provided by the ‘Sonic Spot’ at html.



For topical discussion see: Campbell, G. (2005) ‘There’s something in the air: Podcasting in education’, Educuase Review, 40: 32. Dale, C. (2007) ‘Strategies for using podcasting to support student learning’, Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education, 6(1): 49–57. Hearnshaw, D. (2006) ‘Will Podcasting finally kill the lecture?’ Guardian. 19 September.,,1875286,00. html. Read, B. (2007) ‘How to podcast campus lectures’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Section: Information Technology, 53(21): A32.


Chapter 10

Responding to different needs and student diversity INTRODUCTION In a large lecture the lecturer may initially see the student audience as a sea of faces. However, it usually doesn’t take long before you spot people you recognize and the faceless crowd gradually transforms into a group of individuals who have very different needs, concerns and interests. Trying to design and deliver lectures with this diversity in mind is important.You clearly can’t appeal to all the students all the time but by varying your approach and the stimulus it is possible to make connections with more of the people in the room. By using a range of examples drawn from different environments, by considering the impact of particular topics on certain groups of students in advance and taking the time to present information and ideas in different formats and in different ways we can do much to ensure lectures are inclusive. There are some students in every cohort who have more specific learning needs and this chapter seeks to provide a gateway to thinking about supporting them in the lecture theatre.The needs of students who have a disability such as a visual impairment, a hearing problem, or who are dyslexic, are considered in more detail here, as these are perhaps the most frequently occurring disabilities in the student population. International students, who are non-native speakers of English, may also need your particular consideration in the lecture and we will briefly outline some simple measures that a teacher can take to help overseas students in the lecture. However, barriers may not be due to language but to the expectations and cultural norms of our overseas students. For example, in some education systems the whole content of a course would be delivered in the lectures and if a student were to learn this content they would expect to gain high marks in the assessment. However, this may not



be the case for your module or course – and the lectures may be providing an overview or an introduction to the material but in no way are considered to be comprehensive and ‘all the students need to know’. In the UK students are expected to study independently and to follow up the points and ideas raised in the lecture, i.e. to view the lecture as a starting point, not an end point. As our universities seek to attract and support large numbers of international students the debate about the best ways to do this and the impact it has on higher education continues. Internationalization of the curriculum and higher education has become both a strategic and a practical interest. There are many different views about what ‘internationalization’ in higher education actually means for teaching practice (Jones and Brown 2007). For some the definitions focus on ‘input factors’ and what is being taught (for example, do courses include global examples and draw upon models, theories and literature from an international perspective?). For others the definition focuses more on the outputs of higher education and challenges teachers to consider the goal as producing graduates who are fit and able to operate successfully in a global arena. The two views are not mutually incompatible but do encourage a different emphasis. In simple terms, the input view encourages a content and lecturer-centred stance – the focus being on what is delivered. Whereas the output view could be argued to support a more skills-based and student-centred approach, i.e. what flexibility and skills a student may need to function effectively in future ‘unknown’ environments.We cannot necessarily guess what particular pieces of knowledge our graduates may need in the future, but we do need to ensure that they are able to source the information they require, understand it and evaluate its usefulness and value. For some students the lecture is a particularly daunting learning arena. They may feel unsure of what they should actually be doing there or feel that they are weak in the skills they need to learn effectively in the

TAKE A MINUTE What are your personal views on the meaning and impact of ‘internationalizing’ the curriculum in your discipline? What could you do in your lectures to ‘internationalize’ your course?



TAKE A MINUTE In thinking about inclusivity in lectures we can see that there are many different dimensions to consider – depending on your course, your discipline, your cohort of students, some of these aspects will be much more relevant than others. What aspects of diversity will impact on your teaching choices in the lecture?

lecture, such as, listening, note taking, synthesizing new information at speed, etc. This may be because they are returning to their studies as mature students and have got ‘out of practice’ in studying in this type of classroom environment. It may be because they have been used to much smaller and familiar classrooms on their ‘access course’ in the further education college or school they attended before university. At university the lectures may be much bigger and students can feel quite anonymous in the crowd. A common concern raised by first year students, new to higher education is that they don’t know how to check their understanding or if they are getting what they should be getting from the lectures they attend (in school there was probably the requirement to use and do something with any newly taught information more or less straight away, for example work through some questions or problems in class, do a test, write an essay, etc.).At university tests of understanding or opportunities to apply the new knowledge may come weeks or even months after the lecture. This can lead to some students feeling anxious and uncertain about their progress. STUDENTS WHO HAVE A DISABILITY Medical and social models of disability Introduction of legislation over the last decade has had a major impact on the level of support available for students with a disability. Prior to this the higher education sector has traditionally had quite a good reputation for demonstrating a willingness to adapt and work with individual disabled students to support them in studying but this has been on an ad hoc basis. Today most institutions have dedicated specialists who can



assess the needs of students and provide guidance for teachers and students on providing for their individual needs. The legislation in the UK asks teachers to make reasonable adjustments to their practices to ensure all students can access their studies and are not disadvantaged because of their disabilities.The law also asks teachers and course designers to be proactive in identifying and addressing aspects of their courses and practices which may effectively act as blocks or barriers for some students. There are two contrasting ways in which disability has been considered in recent years, via the medical model and the social model (Oliver 1996). The medical model view is that a person has a disability, which is brought about because of deficits in that person’s body. Such deficits can be treated, rehabilitated or compensated for. In other words, an appropriate response in higher education would be to look at what could be done to help the person with a disability adapt to the course demands. The social model view is that problems arise because of the social oppression or barriers erected in society that disadvantage some students. It is not the physical deficit that disables a person but the barriers that exist in society and an appropriate response is to look for and then remove these barriers. It isn’t the person who needs to change and adapt but society (or in our case, higher education) that needs to change. Legislation, particularly in the UK and to a lesser extent, in the USA, has responded to the social model of disability and therefore focuses on barrier removal. The polarity between these stances and the extent to which they have been used to underpin a political movement of ‘medical model bad, social model good’ is beginning to be contested (Shakespeare and Watson 2002). The political and academic ‘medical/social model’ dialogue has encouraged a two-camp viewpoint that sees people as being identified and labelled as either ‘disabled’ or ‘abled’ regardless of context or environment. Lecturers’ responses In practice many teachers are using a mix of approaches to support student learning.These may include both: ■

Compensatory strategies: working around the areas of deficit or loss and using strengths to acquire new knowledge, understanding and skills (i.e. taped lecture notes for partially sighted students, or the use of colour coding to help students with hearing/processing difficulties).



Learning strategies: teaching how to learn, helping the students to enhance or develop their strategies for time management and how to listen, read and take notes effectively and, very importantly, to learn appropriate revision and examination skills.

Individual needs As teachers and lecturers we operate within our institutional codes of practice and are guided by local policy and procedures as well as ‘good practice’ advice. Such a code is given as an example in Table 10.1. Some specific suggestions

Students who have a visual impairment The handout material provided by many teachers in a lecture will need to be adapted for use by students with sight difficulties. Depending on the severity of their disability and preferred learning style, students may wish to use material in Braille or large print format, or even be provided with notes on audio-tape or podcasted. Some students may be provided with the support of specially trained ‘readers’ who will read aloud lecture handout materials for them before the lecture. This is clearly timeconsuming so it is very important that the students be provided with any handout material well ahead of the lecture. Obtaining reading lists at short notice also creates problems for all students but these students specifically. Reading enlarged print or using computer-based, print magnification equipment is also more time-consuming and tiring. Some students will ask if they can bring a tape recorder to your lecture. This has been a controversial request in some universities. Teachers have voiced fears that an audio-record of their lectures may misrepresent their ‘live’ lecture, and there are concerns about issues of copyright and future litigation. There are also problems for students who rely on tape transcriptions. Listening to tapes as a method of learning requires sophisticated listening and abstraction skills and high levels of concentration.Above all it is more time-consuming than ordinary reading. However, despite these problems the presence of several tape recorders in lectures is now becoming more commonplace. Using visual aids in the lecture is strongly recommended and provides an important support for the learning of many students in the lecture. However, lecturers will need to take the time to explain images and visuals



TABLE 10.1

The required response and strategies outlined in the Code of Practice – Students with Disabilities, UNSW, Australia

Strategies ■

Lecturers should, in consultation with the student and relevant authorities, be free to vary the methods of presentation of work and or assessment, in order to accommodate the nature of the particular disability, providing that academic standards are not compromised.

Academic staff shall allow students with a disability to use specialized equipment particular to the disability required for that student’s participation in lectures, tutorials or laboratory situations.

Wherever possible, and in cooperation with lecturers, lectures and tutorials will be re-located, if scheduled in a location that creates access difficulties in getting to a lecture between lectures and tutorials.

With cooperation of lecturers concerned, students with disabilities may tape record for purposes of their study, lecture, tutorial or laboratory material.

Lecturers should provide copies of their lecture notes and/or overhead projector transparencies if necessary, to students with disabilities for study purposes.

Lecturers should be encouraged to provide reading lists and course-related material to students with visual, hearing or physical disabilities, prior to the commencement of academic sessions as these students often need to have material put into different media, e.g. FM Receivers, sign interpreters.

Academic staff should be provided with the opportunities to be trained in the appreciation of specialized items of equipment being used by students with disabilities, e.g. FM Receivers, sign interpreters.

An academic staff member shall be nominated by each School to act as a contact person for students with disabilities within that school. Students with disabilities however, should have the freedom to approach other members of staff if they prefer.

If you are aware that any students in your lecture have a disability, try to arrange to speak with them privately to discuss their needs at the earliest opportunity. Try not to make global assumptions about their disabilities; the students will be the experts on their own condition and situation. Discuss their needs with them in order to understand their position better and ask for their advice on how you can support their learning and help them to participate fully in your class.



used in the lecture for the benefit of their partially sighted students. Alternatively, some students may wish to be provided with copies of the visual aids displayed in a format that they can more readily interact with before or during the class (for example, large black-and-white images in a handout, or copies that can be accessed on the intranet and viewed using magnification equipment). Negotiation with the students about the formats and approach that best suit their individual needs or providing material in advance which students can manipulate to suite their personal needs and preferences (e.g. via a VLE) is clearly important.

Colour-blind students Colour-blindness is an inherited condition that affects about 10 per cent of males and less than 1 per cent of females.This often means that affected individuals can’t see colours the way most people do.The impact for most colour-blind students is that they cannot distinguish between the colours red and green (blue and yellow difficulties are much rarer). When designing visual aids it is therefore important to avoid certain colour combinations, especially when colour is being used to indicate specific meaning. Particular problems can arise when displaying maps and weather forecast-style visuals or graphs and pie charts in which colour is used and explained in the colour coded legend. Clearly this has implications for teaching presentations that use coloured fonts and images such as PowerPoint. It is, however, possible to check the readability of your PowerPoint slides and images by logging on to the Vischeck website ( For further information, or to test your own ability to see colour, please see the colour-blind home page at

Students with a hearing impairment Students with a hearing impairment are frequently disadvantaged in a university situation as most lectures, seminars and tutorials are oral.The poor acoustics and lighting in many old-fashioned lecture theatres and the lack of adequate sound systems all contribute to their difficulties. Some students must rely on a direct microphone link to the lecturer to hear the lecture but this does mean that they won’t be able to hear questions raised by other students. Universities are, no doubt, slowly updating their teaching accommodation and facilities and are placing a greater emphasis on the design of new



teaching rooms and taking care about the choice of equipment installed to provide more support for students with hearing difficulties. This is, however, a costly and therefore an incremental process, which in the shorter term means that many lecturers are asked to teach in less than ideal circumstances. Background noise can be very distracting and troubling for students who are wearing hearing aids.The lecturer, if aware of this, can make sure that this is kept to a minimum. Many students will also use lip reading extensively to follow the lecture.The obvious, but very easily forgotten, need is to keep facing them as you talk. Make sure these students sit near and in a place in the lecture theatre that you naturally face when lecturing. Some deaf students may use the services of people employed by the college or university to help them, such as signers, realtime captionists or note takers.The lecturer clearly needs to coordinate activities with them. A realtime captionist is a stenographer who uses a steno-machine to take down a lecture verbatim just as in a law court. The words of the lecturer are made instantly available on the screen of a laptop computer. The deaf student is therefore able to read the lecture as it is presented. People and equipment need to be positioned so that the student can see the lecturer and the computer screen at the same time and so that the lecturer is not distracted during the class.This will require discussion and agreement. As there are likely to be technical or unusual words used in many lectures the captionist would need to have access to this terminology before the lecture in order to be accurate for the student.Therefore, the lecturer would need to provide appropriate vocabulary lists or textbooks and liaise with the captionist about seating arrangements in the lecture theatre. TABLE 10.2

An agreement statement produced by the Office for Students with Disabilities at the University of California, Los Angeles

I understand that as a student receiving realtime captioning service, I will receive verbatim transcripts from the Office for Students with Disabilities as an accommodation based on my documented disability. These transcripts are solely for my personal academic use, and I may not share them with any other student or use them for any other purpose other than as class study notes without consultation with the Office for Students with Disabilities and the expressed consent of the professor. Source:



The student can take a copy of the lecture for his or her private study at the end of the class. The concerns raised by many lecturers about students having recordings or verbatim copies of their lectures on computer can be partially addressed by discouraging the dissemination of these recordings or notes to other students (who can hear and take notes from the lecture themselves). In the United States it is reasonably common for universities to ask their students with disabilities to sign a standard letter of agreement if they wish to use the services of a captionist or audio-record lectures, and this practice may well gather momentum in the United Kingdom – see Table 10.2.

Using sign language Visual transmission of information takes longer than auditory transmission and so the lecturer needs to coordinate his or her delivery with that of the signer. Remember: ■ ■

Speak steadily, especially when using technical terms that need to be finger-spelled. Direct questions and remarks to the student, not the signer, although the interpreter may voice the student’s responses and questions for the teacher. Additionally, the lecturer should attempt to ensure that other students don’t interrupt or talk over each other as this causes problems for both the signer and the hearing-impaired student. (Advice based upon Yoshinaga-Itano 2002)

Dyslexic students in your lecture Although features differ significantly between people, students with dyslexia may have difficulties with the following learning activities: reading; remembering, organizing and expressing ideas in writing; spelling, grammar and punctuation; handwriting; note taking; time management; and concentration (Farmer et al. 2002). Many of these will have a direct impact on the student in a lecture. Similar kinds of problems can occur with mathematical calculation and this is know as dyscalcula. However, it is important to remember that extraordinary achievements are frequently made by people with dyslexia. Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison are just some prominent individuals who are now alleged to have had dyslexia. However, the condition, or group of conditions, has only recently been



identified and it still often goes undiagnosed and may be referred to in very different ways in different countries.

What is dyslexia? The British Dyslexia Association describes dyslexia and its effect as follows: ■

Dyslexia is caused by a difference in the part of the brain that deals with language. There is evidence gathered from brain imaging techniques that dyslexic people process information differently. Dyslexia tends to run in families. Dyslexia continues throughout life. Around 4 per cent of the population is severely dyslexic. A further 6 per cent have mild to moderate problems. Dyslexia occurs in people from all backgrounds and of all abilities, from people who cannot read or write to those with university degrees. Dyslexic people may have creative, artistic, practical skills. They can develop strategies to compensate for their areas of difficulty. Dyslexia is a puzzling mix of both difficulties and strengths. It varies in degree and from person to person.

Teaching strategies There are many teaching approaches that can help to negate some of the reading, writing and memory problems faced by dyslexic students. The lecturer can: ■ ■ ■

■ ■

provide a course syllabus at the start of term outlining the content and sequence of the lectures; at the start of the lecture, write new terms and key points on the board; provide frequent mini-summaries during the lecture and provide links and summaries at appropriate points across the course as a whole; illustrate abstract concepts with concrete examples and with personal experiences; when feasible bring theory and practice together using hands-on demonstrations;



use both oral and visual stimuli, i.e. lots of visual aids such as charts and graphs; provide book lists in good time to allow students to begin reading early or to have texts put on tape; provide handouts and study guides that direct the student to key points in their ‘homework’ or preparatory readings; read aloud material that is shown on an overhead projector, board or PowerPoint; keep oral instructions concise and summarize them with brief cue words or bullet point lists.

Assisting note taking and alternative approaches Some students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities need to make use of alternative ways of recording their learning from a lecture because they cannot write quickly enough or assimilate, remember and organize the material while also listening to the lecturer. Some colleges are employing ‘student note takers’ to accompany dyslexic students to lectures and produce a record for them. Others encourage the use of tape recording lectures and yet others require lecturers to make a full and complete set of lecture notes available to students electronically after the class. Teaching techniques that facilitate students in exchanging and reviewing their lecture notes with each other either during or after the class can help students to improve their note-taking skills. Probably the most common method of support is to provide students with incomplete handouts (see Chapter 7), which provide the students with an organized framework in which they can annotate and add a limited number of their own additional notes and comments. (Many of the strategies above will also be of benefit for the other students in the lecture, particularly non-native speakers of English.) NON-NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS IN YOUR LECTURE To be as clear as possible it is likely that tutors will need to speak clearly, more slowly and in shorter sentences than they may otherwise do. Care also needs to be taken in the choice of language and terminology chosen. Trying to avoid colloquial terms, acronyms, abbreviations, or jargon again probably benefits all students but particularly non-native speakers.



Tutors should try to organize and structure their explanations and explicitly signpost their position in that structure at regular intervals throughout the lecture. When teachers refer to a particular person or an important source it is helpful if they write the names or details up on the board or flipchart. Alternatively tutors can provide such information in a brief handout that the students can refer to and annotate during class. The active learning and interactive teaching strategies discussed earlier (Chapters 7 and 8) that aim to give students ‘comfortable’ thinking time and opportunities to check their understanding and note taking with their peers are also particularly helpful for non-native speakers (Exley and Dennick 2004). As described for dyslexic students, the provision of handout notes in class will remove the need for international students to try and write quickly and comprehensively in a second or third language. It will reduce the pressure they feel to ‘get it down’ and give them more time to think about it during the lecture. Cultural differences Culture is such an over-used word that can be interpreted in so many different ways. It is actually very difficult to describe one’s own culture and we sometimes only become aware that we have a set of expectations about how we should behave or what we should do when somebody does something different. One place where this can be observed is in the use of humour; what we find amusing or entertaining, another person may not, and they may even be upset or offended by it. Jokes sometimes don’t translate well. There are many aspects of non-verbal communication, such as length of time we hold eye contact and the way giving eye contact communicates that we are sincere or giving attention, or the way we gesticulate when speaking, that are part of our culture and will vary between lecturers and students. The gestures we use and hand signals that can be misinterpreted and potentially cause offence are few but pointing directly at people can be considered rude by some and holding up fingers to indicate counting or numbers can also be problematic. Culture goes much deeper than speech and appearance, it deeply conditions the way people think about, deal with and imagine the world. Most importantly, it can have profound effects on what is considered



appropriate, or even imaginable behaviour.Thus a way of teaching that is exciting and challenging to one student can be bewildering and frustrating to another. A classroom situation that draws in and engages one student can shut out and discourage another. (Martin C.Young, mzyoung/div.htm) One way teachers can help this situation is by being very clear and explicit about their expectations and not anticipating that their students will just know how to behave or will pick it up via osmosis. For example, make it really clear that you welcome questions but don’t expect students to chat to each other in private conversations during the lecture unless requested to do so on a particular question or topic. WIDENING PARTICIPATION AND INCLUSIVITY The ‘widening participation’ agenda has had a dramatic impact in many institutions on the make-up of the student body. Some universities and colleges have been very successful in attracting non-traditional learners back to further and higher study. Mature students (over the age of 21) may have had a number of years away from a classroom setting and may not be used to a packed lecture theatre with two hundred students sitting in it. Mature students may feel alienated and deprived of the opportunity to ask questions in such an environment. Similarly, a group of students who can feel very under-confident in the lecture theatre are students who have entered higher education through an access route or a foundation degree.These students will frequently have had, during their one or more years in a further education college, a more directly supported experience of learning. Frequently, further education classes are smaller, large parts of the courses are directly taught, course work is submitted and marked several times during a unit of study and students may enjoy a much more personal relationship with teachers and tutors. Suddenly to find themselves in a potentially more anonymous educational system, which makes much greater use of independent learning strategies, can be very daunting.The taught components of the course may well be lectures, and large, popular, first year courses can be very large events indeed. In business or computing numbers often rise above three hundred students in a lecture. Although the background and previous experience of these two groups of students are very different, some of the challenges they face in the lecture may be similar:



understanding the role of the lecture in their learning; finding the best way of working in the lecture; finding the best way of recording that learning, for example making notes or annotating handout materials; being able to check their understanding and ask questions.

Many universities and colleges do provide excellent support through study skills workshops and advice and clearly some of these questions and concerns can be addressed here. However, particularly when teaching first year groups, the lecturer can provide explicit guidance on how he or she expects the students to work in the lecture, when to put pens down and listen, when to take down diagrams or notes, etc. Students do view the skills of note taking as being of central importance when studying at university. Students initially perceived (and subsequently confirmed in the light of actual experience) that university was primarily about analysing information, followed by taking notes (Blicharski 1999). Many students struggle in their first term or semester to find the best way of taking good, clear notes from the lectures they attend and a few words of guidance can speed up this learning. Advice may include: ■ ■

■ ■ ■

Listen for cues from the lecturer that indicate importance, such as ‘The main point is . . .There are two issues involved . . .’, etc. Listen for cues on the lecture structure – these are often called verbal signposts. For example ‘So let’s move on to the third argument’; ‘My next point contradicts this’; ‘Alternatively you may be convinced by’. Leave room in your notes to add things later. Integrate your own notes with any handouts provided – crossreference, highlight key words, add notes in the margin, etc. Review your notes as soon as possible after the lecture. As well as helping to clear up any misunderstanding, etc., this will really help you retain important points and help when it comes to revision. Discuss the lecture with other students.

As a lecturer, it is worth considering which of these points of guidance we can actually support and build on. We can certainly stress key points and enhance the verbal and visual cues we give to help students recognize important points. We can give semi-structured or partial handouts that



guide the note-taking process and explicitly leave room for students to embellish and expand for themselves. We can also build in ‘review’ exercises to encourage students to do this for themselves. Building in time for lecture note swaps and summarizing discussions can also help students to double check their record of the lecture and develop their skills. For example, leaving five minutes at the end of the lecture, asking the students to write down the three most important aspects considered in the class and telling their neighbour why they chose them, can help less confident students consolidate their learning and increase their belief that they are doing the right thing. Mature students often greatly value the opportunity to ask the lecturer questions to clarify points or to gain further insights and detail about a topic. In large lectures spontaneous exchange is problematic and the lecturer can seek to organize learning activities that generate questions in class (see Chapter 8). Alternatively the course may be designed to enable further discussion of the topics raised in the lecture in related tutorial sessions. If this isn’t the case the use of follow-up discussion boards on the course VLE can support such exchanges (see Chapter 9). Students from further education backgrounds may lack the confidence of many mature students in asking questions in an open forum when they first come to university. It is likely that their classes have been much smaller and informal in college.They may also be less experienced in finding and evaluating learning sources in texts and journals in the library or on the Internet. It is worth keeping this in mind when planning reading lists and suggested follow-up readings at the end of the lecture. PERSONAL VIEWS Here colleagues teaching in a range of different institutions and disciplines discuss their personal approaches to considering issues of inclusivity in their Lectures. Inclusivity in philosophy lectures I probably don’t think about inclusivity as much as I should but here are three of the issues relating to inclusivity I do think about, as well as a few of the methods I have developed for dealing with them. (1) Women continue to be seriously underrepresented in the profession of philosophy. Recent statistics suggest that in the US women typically earn between 25 per cent to 30 per cent of the PhDs in



philosophy each year. In 2006, women made up about 19 per cent of the faculty at top twenty US research programmes in philosophy. (I suspect that things aren’t that much different in the UK although statistics are hard to come by.) Representation of women in what are commonly recognized as seven of the top philosophy journals is even smaller. But there are plenty of female students in our undergraduate modules, and the ratio of men to women among our single honours students is roughly 50/50. Something is going wrong somewhere along the line. I suspect that one problem is that we are not doing enough to keep female students interested in philosophy and to encourage them to continue pursuing it. But what can we do short of restructuring the entire profession? There are two specific methods I have used to encourage gender inclusiveness in the class: (1) I strive to include a significant number of required and recommended lecture readings by female authors; and (2) I often incorporate some discussion of feminist philosophical approaches in class when appropriate (for example, ecofeminism in a environmental ethics module, feminist aesthetics in a philosophy of art course).This latter material is of particular importance since it often critically addresses philosophy’s own tendency to be gender-biased. Is this enough? Probably not. But I hope it helps female students feel that they can make a significant contribution to philosophy and that it can begin to make a small difference with respect to the glaring under-representation of women in our postgraduate philosophy programmes and in professional philosophy more generally. (2) The majority of modules that I teach fall under the broad heading of philosophical aesthetics – the philosophical study of the arts and beauty.The examples of art, music and literature that are discussed in this field tend to come from the sphere of Western high culture, and I worry that this will alienate some students.Thankfully there are a few obvious solutions – I aim to incorporate discussion of art outside the Western canon in my modules and I often specifically address philosophical issues raised by popular and non-Western art in class. I have to admit that this isn’t the only reason I address popular culture in my lectures (I’m a Buffy fan and I have published on comic books), but it is one of the reasons. And I hope that it does something to make students who haven’t had a great deal of exposure to so-called ‘high’ culture feel more at home with the philosophical examination of the arts. I should mention here that I think it is also important to push students – all students – to engage with cultural objects outside their normal realm of exposure. Non-Western art can do this for many



students, but works of great art from the Western tradition may do this as well. (3) One of the most common issues related to inclusivity that comes up in lectures is that of students who have difficulty processing information aurally. I know that providing PowerPoint presentations online has its drawbacks; nevertheless, I am convinced that providing students with an easy way to gain access to a rich set of carefully prepared linguistic and visual cues to the material is one of the best ways of dealing with this issue. Some students are significantly helped by having handouts that they can annotate before lectures. I have to admit that it is sometimes frustrating to have to send off a copy of my slides hours before I lecture – I’m the kind of teacher who often wants to make last minute corrections and additions just before class starts – but this is an inconvenience that I can live with. And one can always send a revised set of notes after the lecture. (Dr Aaron Meskin, Philosophy, ) Inclusivity in nursing lectures When teaching nursing students about issues related to the disproportionate number of young Afro-Caribbean males being treated in mental health services in the UK, I face the task of doing justice to the facts while ensuring healthy debate and maintaining a balanced atmosphere in the lecture. I am striving to provide a learning environment that is respectful and sensitive to the ethnic and cultural diversity of each and every student and yet the lecture material is itself controversial and challenging. For example, the lecture asks why there are more young Afro-Caribbean men being treated in mental health services and goes on to consider that this might be due to a number of ‘uncomfortable’ factors. These may include psychiatrists and nurses judging AfricanCaribbean cases as being more violent (especially young Afro-Caribbean males) and subjecting this group to more stringent methods of control, social perceptions of the Afro-Caribbean family as dysfunctional or pathological, the governing stereotype that Afro-Caribbean people are less compliant to rules/norms, and that racism is a significant factor in the mental distress of Afro-Caribbean people. Due to the nature of the topic it is impossible to avoid a sense of unease and discomfort in light of research findings that demonstrate such inequalities – something all the harder to bear given that we are talking about their occurrence in the National Health Service, which prides itself on caring for and



reaching out to vulnerable groups in society. The irony is not lost on the students or on me as a tutor, preparing them to be part of such services. Furthermore, when teaching this topic I am always acutely aware of the potential tension, sense of shame or embarrassment that might arise from this discussion and I strive to lay out the facts in a straightforward, no-nonsense way and maintain steady, regular eye contact with all members of the group regardless of their ethnic background. Here, it is especially important not to miss eye contact or quickly break eye contact with Afro-Caribbean student members of the group. Equally, it is best not to direct your communication exclusively to Afro-Caribbean students, creating an ‘eye-funnel’ between you and them in a way that may exclude the broader group and present the topic as being of special or unique concern to only one contingent, thus intensifying difference and exceptionality. I would do the same when lecturing on other sensitive and less obvious topics that might disproportionately affect some students in the group, say Alzheimer’s Disease, suicide, self-harming, loss of a loved one, sexual abuse or eating disorders.The key is not to make an exception of any individual student members in presenting on relevant topics.That said, tutors will always face the possibility of certain topics provoking emotional responses from individual students. When this happens, then thoughtful pastoral care and follow-up should be the order of the day. (Dr Paul Crawford, School of Nursing, University of Nottingham) As a profession, nursing attracts a diverse group of people of different ages and backgrounds and this presents challenges for those engaged in teaching students in both academic and clinical settings to ensure that the message that is being conveyed is absorbed by everyone. As a lecturer I am aware that what I say can create a strong impression on students in either a positive or negative fashion. In key lectures, there has to be awareness that students may have particular issues to which they are personally sensitive and I find it useful to review my teaching material to ensure that issues are dealt with appropriately. I teach on healthcare ethics and law modules, where there are a number of sensitive issues to be covered, for example abortion.As a topic abortion is controversial and students may have very strong views founded on cultural or religious beliefs, or through personal experience. Given the importance of the issue, it cannot be ignored on the grounds that certain groups will be offended/upset, but it is useful that because I have given



thought to my own views on the topic, I am more aware of the possible effect of what I am teaching.This helps me in presenting the topic in a fashion that makes as few assumptions as possible about the audience and be aware of the need for balance in what I am presenting.This can be particularly difficult when responding to student questions in the lecture and I take pains to do this in a neutral fashion (not easy if I profoundly disagree with the view that is being offered by the questioner). Within the body of nursing students, the diversity of background can be exploited in a very positive fashion too. For example, in presenting on nursing care before and after surgery, I ask if any students would be willing to disclose their own experiences. Older, mature, students with a greater range of life experiences often add very valuable insights from a user perspective of the process.They also will often have more confidence in giving their own views, even if this may not always be flattering to the profession. When making space in my lectures to incorporate these valuable student views I do take care to set boundaries to ensure that students do not feel coerced into revealing information which they may feel uncomfortable about. I also try to create balance through my response to their comments by raising the other side of the argument or raising a different perspective. (Martin Towers, School of Nursing, ) IN SUMMARY Many of the adaptations to the lecture suggested in this chapter will benefit all the students attending but may make a significant difference to individuals who have specific difficulties. They may make the difference between students dropping out of the course and continuing successfully. Widening participation is not just about getting more students through the doors and onto courses; the heart of the matter is retention and progression.These two very dry words are about welcoming and supporting a wide and diverse group of learners as they go through a demanding personal transition. Adaptations to teaching and learning approaches are clearly only part of the fundamental change to the sector which is needed for ‘widening participation’ policies to be successfully implemented.This debate draws us beyond the scope of the volume but for further information consult the HEFCE reports 01/37 and 03/15 (HEFCE 2001, 2003).



FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Grace, S. and Gravestock, P. (2008) Inclusion and Diversity: Meeting the Needs of All Students, Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education. London: Routledge. Carroll, J. and Appleton, J. (2007) ‘Support and guidance for learning from an international perspective’, in E. Jones and S. Brown (eds), Internationalising Higher Education. London: Routledge.

Focussing on aspects of disability: Doyle, C. and Robson, K. (2001) Accessible Curricula:Good Practice For All. Cardiff: University of Wales. Hayton,A. and Paczuska,A. (eds) (2002) Participation and Higher Education. London: Kogan Page.


Chapter 11

Evaluating lecturing and developing your practice

To become a good lecturer you need to assess yourself against some agreed standards, change your practice in response to the feedback you obtain and, by repeating this cycle, gradually improve your skills, increase your confidence and hopefully enjoy your teaching more.The criteria that can be used and the way they are employed, either by self-evaluation, by a specific observer or by students, depend on the context for the evaluation: is it formative and developmental, or is it summative and judgemental? In addition the evaluation of lecturing should also reflect the level of experience of the lecturer and whether they are a novice or advanced beginner. This chapter will list the main criteria used during teaching evaluation, outline some typical teaching evaluation techniques and then describe methods of giving appropriate and sensitive feedback. Finally it will look at some common lecturing problems that might be diagnosed by evaluation, and suggest their solutions. CRITERIA FOR GOOD LECTURING The criteria we describe below summarize the recommendations for good lecturing we have described in previous chapters. They are listed below in the form of questions that an observer might ask when observing teaching. Mood ■ ■

Does the lecturer display an appropriate and professional attitude towards students? Does the lecturer introduce him/herself?



Context ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Is the topic introduced in a stimulating way? Is prior learning activated? Are connections made to previous lectures? Are the topic’s importance and relevance stressed? Are the students motivated to learn?

Outcomes ■ ■ ■ ■

Are learning outcomes stated? Are they relevant and appropriate to the curriculum and to the level of the students? Are they achievable in the time available? Do they show a cognitive range?

Content ■ ■ ■ ■

Is there an appropriate amount of information presented in the time available? Is the information structured effectively? Does the lecturer help the students navigate through the content? Are the explanations clear and do they use a range of examples, images, and analogies?

Presentation skills ■ ■ ■

■ ■ ■

Is the lecturer articulate and does he or she use a clear and well-modulated voice? If a white/blackboard is used is it used, effectively, and can students read what is written? If an overhead projector and acetates are used, are acetates clearly visible, is the text an appropriate size, is handwriting legible? If PowerPoint is used, are slides well organized and designed and do they use an appropriate font at an appropriate type size? Are other AV aids (video, computer animations, etc.) competently incorporated into the presentation? Are any handouts clearly written and designed?



If interactivity is used, is it well managed and are students adequately primed and encouraged to participate? Does the lecturer demonstrate enthusiasm for the subject and is he or she stimulating and interesting? Is time managed well? Is the presentation well paced?

Closure ■ ■

Does the lecturer emphasize the conclusions and summarize the key points? Does the lecturer give the students a sense of accomplishment?

LECTURING EVALUATION The criteria described above can be incorporated into a variety of checklists and protocols used to evaluate teachers. However, if these criteria are to be turned into an assessment system it is essential to know if all of them are equally important or whether some are more important than others. Also, for each criteria what are the levels of performance and what is an acceptable standard? Although teachers can evaluate themselves it is also helpful to be evaluated either by a skilled teaching evaluator, by a colleague or peer, or else by students. Each of these methods has different biases and may use slightly different evaluation criteria. External evaluation An increasing number of professional bodies and organizations have produced recommendations and standards for good quality teaching in general and lecturing in particular. In the UK the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) have produced criteria for teachers ranging from professional skills and scholarship to teaching techniques. Subject centres have developed their own criteria suitable for their own subject areas and other professional bodies such as the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the General Medical Council, for example, provide guidance on what is considered to be good practice. It is not proposed to look at the checklists and protocols that these organizations have developed, as they are readily available from their respective websites, listed at the end of this chapter. External reviewers from these organizations will use these criteria when observing a sample of teachers and will use the information obtained to



evaluate the overall quality of teaching provided by a faculty, school or department. For example QAA teaching evaluators are concerned with the clarity of the learning outcomes for each session they observe, with planning and organization, pace, content, interactivity and the use of learning resources. Peer evaluation of teaching (PET) PET schemes are set up within schools and departments and involve academics forming pairs or circles who observe, evaluate and feed back on each other’s teaching during the academic year.The aim is to generate a community of teachers who are keen to improve their teaching, who are open to constructive criticism and who will use reflection to improve their practice. Ideally participants need to have been on a basic teacher training course so that they are familiar with the techniques of teaching and the criteria used to evaluate teachers. However, if that is not the case then they will meet beforehand to discuss the proposed teaching session, to share their views on good teaching and to agree appropriate criteria.They may use a checklist agreed by their school or department. The teacher might describe the overall structure and organization of the proposed session, its learning outcomes and any issues that require specific observation and feedback. In a developmentally focused teaching observation scheme it is very important that the teachers feel able to set the agenda and direct their observer’s eye towards aspects of their teaching which they are keen to develop. Teachers need to be aware that schools and departments may turn PET into a formally administered process involving forms and paperwork for the purposes of teaching quality enhancement and for providing evidence to external reviewers that teaching evaluation and development is taking place. Student evaluation of teaching (SET) There is a certain logic to the idea that students should evaluate the teaching they are subjected to, since in one sense they are the consumers and teachers are the producers. However, the precise relationship between teachers and students depends on a variety of variables ranging from the student’s understanding of what teaching is to the teacher’s understanding of what learning is. For example, students might think that teaching is merely the transmission of factual information in didactic lectures, whereas



teachers might think that learning is an active process of personal construction requiring student interaction and responsibility. There is considerable scope for potential misunderstanding between these two extremes and it is important to recognize the biases that might exist on both sides. Nevertheless, most teachers can obtain something for their own personal benefit by asking a few simple questions of students at the end of a teaching session, and a variety of formal SET schemes have also been produced. A simple feedback questionnaire containing open-ended questions, which might be given to students after a presentation or lecture, might contain the following: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

What did you find most useful about the lecture? What did you find least useful about the lecture? What did you find interesting? What did you find difficult? What improvements could be made to the lecture?

Another simple system suggested by Race (2001) is to ask students: ■ ■ ■

what should be stopped; what should be started; what should be continued.

University-based student evaluation of teaching systems can generate checklists containing a wide variety of criteria that might be more useful for particular disciplines.These can combine generic criteria with subjectspecific criteria on one form to be used by students. Microteaching evaluation and feedback The schemes described above are based on experts, peers or students evaluating actual timetabled teaching sessions. However, another method that can be used in a training session, in an admittedly artificial environment, is feedback after microteaching. Here the teacher is asked to make a brief presentation, lasting between five and ten minutes, which is observed by both a trainer ‘expert’ and a group of peers.A written checklist can be used and given back to the teacher but after the session detailed oral feedback can be provided from both the trainer and the peers. Clearly this is potentially a very powerful learning tool which enables learners,



for example, to try techniques out in a relatively safe environment. The process can be further enhanced by making a video of the session and giving a copy to the learner for further reflection. Giving and receiving feedback on teaching performance A lecturer may obtain feedback from, for example, a SET system or from an ad hoc feedback form distributed to the audience and might then selfevaluate their own performance against the criteria used. It can be difficult to take anonymous criticism like this and there is a tendency to concentrate on the negative. However, it is important to be aware of the strengths as well as the weaknesses identified, to be aware of any biases that might skew the data and to use the information obtained as a way of improving rather than as an opportunity for self pity! A much better approach is to have feedback from an expert observer or peer evaluator. In both cases a checklist might have been used but the interpersonal approach will provide more nuanced evidence. If possible feedback should take place immediately after the taught session when the experience is fresh in the mind. Enough time should be devoted to it, it shouldn’t be rushed and there should be time to reflect. There are some general principles that are recommended for both giving and receiving feedback which are outlined below. A method of giving feedback will be discussed later. Approaches to feedback If you have been an observer of a lecturing session these are some suggested approaches for giving feedback: ■

■ ■ ■

Be realistic – direct your comments towards actions that your colleague can control. Pinpoint something that your colleague can influence or change. Be specific – generalizations are not helpful. Be sensitive to the goals of your colleague. Be consciously non-judgmental. Describe behaviour (‘you interrupted three times’) rather than making judgements (‘you are domineering’). Be aware of balancing positive and negative feedback. Positive feedback on its own allows no room for improvement and negative feedback alone is discouraging.



If possible, provide or discuss possible means for improvement. Be prompt – delay reduces impact. Be constructive – give suggestions for improvement. (Adapted from Eastcott and Farmer 1992; O’Neill and Pennington 1992)

Receiving feedback ■

■ ■

■ ■

Be explicit – make it clear what kind of feedback you are seeking before the observation and if necessary before the feedback begins. Be aware – notice your own reactions, both intellectual and emotional. Be silent – you will hear more if you concentrate on listening rather than explaining or justifying yourself. Consciously try to avoid being defensive. Be clear – exactly what is your colleague saying to you? Ask for clarification if necessary; check understanding regularly. Be open – engage in the feedback process with an open mind and a willingness to learn. (Adapted from Eastcott and Farmer 1992; O’Neill and Pennington 1992)

A method for giving feedback to a teacher The principles of feedback outlined above do not suggest a method for engaging in the actual process of giving feedback. There is no indication as to who should speak first or how the conversation should begin. For example, an evaluator could sit down with a teacher and immediately start telling them what was wrong with their presentation and then give them suggestions for improvement. On the face of it this sounds like ‘constructive feedback’. But how will the teacher feel? They weren’t asked how they thought the session went or what they thought could be improved.Will it be a positive experience for them or will they feel they have been ‘told off’? Constructive feedback should be given in a sensitive way to minimize any negative feelings that might inhibit development. A simple method has been developed that manages to give helpful feedback in such a way that the receiver sees it as a positive experience (Pendleton et al. 1984). The overall process is designed to be learner-centred, starting from the



experiences of the teacher. It involves discussing positive achievements, then dealing with problem areas, but providing helpful suggestions for improvement.The problems are sandwiched between positive observations and solutions, hence the name ‘feedback sandwich’. Assuming the evaluator has observed the teacher’s lecture, they might sit down together afterwards.The first thing the evaluator should do is to ask the teacher what he or she thought was positive or worked well in the lecture. Note that they are asking the lecturer to describe their experiences first and to concentrate on the positive. Experience shows that if you simply ask ‘How did that go?’ most teachers will start talking about the negative so the key is to deliberately ask for the positive and to ensure the teacher stays in that mode during the first phase of feedback. Hopefully the lecturer will give positive descriptions or evaluations of at least some of their performance. Teachers can frequently be quite modest but as the evaluator should have been making careful notes they should be able to reinforce their achievements with additional positive observations. Next the evaluator should ask the lecturer what might have been done differently given any problems he or she encountered during the presentation. Note that the lecturer is not being asked to simply describe their problems but rather to think of their problems in the context of solutions. After listening to the lecturer’s problems and possible solutions the evaluator can start to make further helpful suggestions aimed specifically at these issues. However, if the evaluator has spotted further problems that the lecturer was not aware of this can often be a tricky aspect of the feedback process since they may have little insight into it. The way to approach this is to use questions that encourage the lecturer to think more deeply about the issues. For example, if the evaluator has spotted that some of the PowerPoint slides had an excessive amount text on them they might ask,‘What do you think about the amount of information on your slides?’ or ‘Do you think the students would have been able to read all of the information on your slides?’ Hopefully this ‘learner-centred’ approach would facilitate the lecturer into thinking more deeply about some of their presentation techniques. In summary the process could go like this: 1

Ask the lecturer to describe his or her positive achievements: ‘Tell me what you thought went well in your presentation.’




Respond positively, and if possible describe further examples of good teaching techniques you have observed: ‘I agree. I liked the way you did X. And I also liked the way you did Y.’


Ask the teacher to describe how he or she might deal with any problem areas encountered during the presentation: ‘Are there any things you would now do differently given any problems you may have encountered during the lecture?’


Add your own suggestions for dealing with problems and for improving practice: ‘Yes, but why don’t you try . . . Try concentrating more on . . . Next time you can . . . It might be useful to . . . Have you thought of . . .’

Developing your practice Some people are natural teachers, have plenty of self-confidence and low anxiety levels and soon learn to be expert presenters and lecturers. However, for most of us, becoming an expert lecturer and presenter takes time and there are plenty of mistakes to make on the way! Therefore it is essential to reflect on your experiences and learn from your mistakes. Self-evaluation and critical reflection are essential processes to engage in after lecturing, either on your own or with a colleague, friend or mentor. Becoming a ‘professional’ teacher means engaging in ‘reflective practice’. The techniques of evaluation and feedback have been described earlier but a way to extract even more learning from your experiences is to keep a log book, diary or portfolio in which you can record what happened; what went right, what went wrong and what you have learned from the situation.You might record a lesson plan or a set of PowerPoint slides with annotations of issues or problems.You might reflect on why you ran over time and delete some material, or if you had difficulty explaining a concept you might like to think of an alternative approach next time. You should also keep feedback from students and your responses to their comments. This material will not only encourage you to be a better teacher but it will also constitute useful evidence when applying for teaching jobs or promotion.



COMMON LECTURING PROBLEMS AND THEIR SOLUTIONS Some common presentation problems are discussed below with suggestions for improvement. Too much material This is the commonest fault of lecturing. Novice lecturers routinely overestimate the amount of material they think they can present. They genuinely want to tell students about the things they think are important and they are reluctant to remove material. They also underestimate the amount of time it takes to explain concepts in a lecture. Taken together this results in poor time management, an increase in pace towards the end of the lecture, increased stress on students trying to keep up with note taking and the inability to finish the lecture in the time available. More importantly, by overwhelming students with information, these lecturers actually inhibit the learning of key concepts.

Solution Be ruthless about reducing the amount of material you wish to present. A lecture should be an expert overview, not a presentation of detail. Remember the maxim ‘Less is more.’ Just because you ‘cover’ a topic doesn’t mean students learn it. Use handouts with extra material and reading lists. Practise and time your presentation beforehand, particularly explanations that you might take for granted. Practice is nearly always faster than lecturing live. If you are concerned about having time over at the end, use it for engaging in questions. No outcomes This is another very common fault. Lecturers will tell students what they wish to cover in the lecture, thinking they are describing the outcomes. Outcomes are statements concerning what students should be able to do at the end of the lecture, not what information is covered. Sampled outcomes become assessment criteria and students need this information in order to focus their learning.



Solution Think carefully about what you want students to be able to do after engaging with the material you cover. Do you want them to recall some factual information? Do you want them to be able to explain or describe things? Do you want them to be able to draw or to label diagrams? Do you want them to be able to derive or use a formula? Do you want them to compare and contrast evidence or critically evaluate theories? Appropriate lecture outcomes should be negotiated with the course coordinator. They should fit into the overall curriculum outcomes and should form the basis of sampled assessments. No attempt at contextualization Some lecturers just start straight into the content of the lecture without any introduction or attempt to make connections with prior knowledge or prior work, or without explaining why the topic is important.This can be confusing for students who may not have completely settled down or who fail to catch the significance of the lecture and see how it fits into the curriculum.

Solution When starting a lecture always try to make connections with prior knowledge and explain the importance, relevance and usefulness of the topic. Irrelevance Occasionally a lecturer might deviate from the prescribed curriculum and teach material that, although interesting to the lecturer, is not in the syllabus and hence is technically irrelevant. This can also happen when lectures are given by outside lecturers or in lectures occurring during work experience when there is less central control over teaching.

Solution Lecturing should be well coordinated centrally and peripherally and all lecturers should know the curriculum outcomes required in any given session.



Poor audio-visual aids Some lecturers scribble indecipherably on whiteboards, blackboards or overhead transparencies. Some lecturers rub out material that is being copied down or else rub out sections of a formula or diagram and rewrite it, forgetting that the students have to rewrite all of it. Some users of PowerPoint use fonts that are too small and cram too much material onto one slide, or else they use clashing colours and backgrounds that are difficult to read. Some lecturers insist on turning the lights off if showing slides or overheads, when they can be perfectly well seen in normal lighting.This sends the audience to sleep and makes note taking difficult.

Solution There is no excuse for poor handwriting in lectures. A lecture is about communication so ensure that writing is clear, neat and correctly spelled. Think about what you might write beforehand and plan how it might look. Remember that students may be trying to take notes so leave text up long enough for this activity and don’t make changes that students can’t adjust to. When using PowerPoint use a font size of at least 24; don’t write all text in capital letters; preferably use a sans serif font such as Arial or Comic Sans, and don’t have coloured text clashing with coloured backgrounds. Keep it simple. Dimming or switching off the lights is usually not required with modern data projectors and good lighting keeps people awake and allows note taking. Incompetent use of audio-visual aids Sometimes lecturers arrive at the beginning of the lecture and are unable to operate the lights, the overhead projector, the computer or the data projector. They spend ten minutes fiddling about then ring the audio-visual unit technicians who are on call.Ten minutes later the lecture begins.

Solution Always arrive early for a lecture using audio-visual aids and ensure all the equipment is working and you know how to use it. If there is a problem, ring the AV technician on call straight away so it can be put right before the lecture is due to begin. Modern lecture theatres often have an integrated console that controls all the facilities. Make sure you know how



to use it. Go there when the lecture theatre is not in use and practise using the equipment until you are fully competent and confident. Poor explanations During an explanatory sequence in a lecture the lecturer starts to ‘um’ and ‘er’ and jumps over sections too rapidly or without explanation.What is said does not appear to make logical sense.The lecturer realizes that he or she is not making a coherent and logical explanation.

Solution Practise explanations until you are satisfied that you have a rational sequence that makes sense. Don’t take your own understanding for granted and try to make up an explanation on the spot in a lecture, as it can go wrong. Just because you understand something doesn’t mean you can explain it to someone who has never heard about it before. Too fast Lecturing too fast can be a result of too much content, as discussed above. However, it can also be the result of nervousness, when the lecturer wants to get the experience over with as quickly as possible.

Solution Nerves have been dealt with in Chapter 3, but essentially the lecturer needs a good structure, with well-organized content and opportunities to practise and receive feedback from supportive colleagues. Boring/monotonous/unstimulating The lecturer speaks in a boring monotone. He or she uses the same presentation technique throughout the lecture with no variation. The material is presented in a very unstimulating way.

Solution Practise modulating the voice. Go to a voice training class. Go on a teacher training course where good presentation techniques are demonstrated. Try to develop some enthusiasm for your subject!



FURTHER READING This small number of sources is intended to provide further useful information for those who wish to explore the chapter topic in more detail or who wish to find additional practical or technical suggestions. Full referencing is provided at the end of the book. Blackwell, R. and McLean, M. (1996) ‘Peer observation of teaching and staff development’, HE Quarterly, 50(2): 156–171. Brown, S., Jones, G. and Rawnsley, S. (eds) (1993) Observing Teaching, SEDA Paper 79. Birmingham: Staff and Educational Development Association, p. 96. Eastcott, D. and Farmer, R. (1992) Planning Teaching for Active Learning, Module 3: Effective Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Sheffield: Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals/Universities’ Staff Development and Training Unit. O’Neill, M. and Pennington, G. (1992) Evaluating Teaching and Programmes from an Active Learning Perspective. London: Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. Woodin, J. and Beigy,A. (1999) Tandem Observation.A collaborative project between Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU) and the University of Sheffield, funded by HEFCE: DEVELOP (Developing Excellence in Language Teaching Through the Observation of Peers). Leeds: Leeds Metropolitan University.

USEFUL WEBSITES (Accessed 8/7/08) This website provides a wide range of teaching articles, discussions and links and has a useful section of resources on peer observation of teaching. The Higher Education Academy website, resources section, now carries the peer observation of teaching (POT) project work and outputs produced by the LTSN Generic Subject Centre with a number of colleagues. For example, Gosling, D. (2002) Models of Peer Observation of Teaching at of_Peer_Observation_of_Teaching. More recent additions to the HEA resources have included Vaneeta-Marie D’Andrea’s discussion article on peer review of teaching in the USA, detail/id29_Peer_Review_of_Teaching_in_the_USA. Peer review of teaching (PRoT) site at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Provides guidance on using peer observation as a process for improving your teaching and on how it can be used to show evidence of good teaching.



University schemes, guidance and information Several universities in the UK have set up peer observation schemes and written handbooks and provided guidance on the subject. These include examples of proformas and checklists to assist in the observation process and in giving feedback to peers on their teaching. For example: Centre for Educational Development at Imperial College, London: peerobservationofteaching. University of Leicester: University of Nottingham: and University of Reading: Learning/Peer_Review_Guidelines.html. Several of the Higher Education Academy subject centres in the UK have provided more discipline-specific guidance on teaching observation. For example: Education Subject Centre, Escalate: peerobservation/. Liz Beaty and Ian McGill have developed a video training pack, Observation for Reflective Practice. It contains a video case study and a package of OHTs, preparatory materials and handouts, etc., to help a staff developer run a workshop of up to one day. It can be purchased through Martin Hayden, Head of Learning Resources, Brighton University.


Appendix I

Supporting students with a disability The legal position

THE LEGAL POSITION: SUPPORTING DISABLED STUDENTS (Taken from Exley and Dennick 2004, originally adapted from guidance provided by the Disability Rights Commission.) From September 2002, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 (as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001) makes it unlawful for providers of education and related services to discriminate against disabled people. In law the college or university is responsible for both the actions of: ■ ■

full-time and part-time employees of the institution in the course of their employment, and external and visiting speakers, etc.

However, individual teachers and tutors may also be held responsible for aiding an unlawful act if they knowingly discriminate against a disabled student. The Act uses a wide definition of disabled person, and institutions are expected to take reasonable steps to find out if a person is disabled. It can include people with: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

physical or mobility impairments; visual and hearing impairments; dyslexia and dyspraxia; medical conditions; mental health difficulties.



There are two ways in which a tutor could discriminate against a disabled student: ■ ■

treating them ‘less favourably’ than other people; failing to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ when, because of their disability, they are placed at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ when compared to other students.

The Act applies to all the activities and facilities institutions provide wholly or mainly for students, including, for example: ■ ■ ■ ■

all aspects of teaching and learning, including SGT, lectures, lab work, practicals, field trips, etc.; e-learning, distance learning and teaching resources; examinations and assessments; learning resources, including libraries, computer facilities, etc.

From the lecturer’s point of view the main focus of the legislation is the clear need to make anticipatory reasonable adjustments to the teaching, learning and assessment approaches used in order to make the learning experience accessible to all students. Exactly what might constitute a reasonable adjustment will depend on the needs of the students, the requirements and academic standards of the course, the resources of the institution and the practicality of the adjustment (including its impact on other students). In general terms a reasonable adjustment might be any action that helps to alleviate a substantial disadvantage, for example: ■ ■

■ ■ ■

changing institutional procedures; adapting the curriculum, making adaptations to electronic or other materials used by the student, or modifying the delivery of teaching; providing additional services, such as a sign language interpreter or materials in large font or Braille; raising awareness and training staff to work with disabled people; making modifications to the physical environment.

‘Anticipatory’ adjustments means that universities (and teachers) should consider what adjustments future disabled students may need, and make



them in advance.The QAA Code of Practice for students with disabilities (Precept 10) recommends: The delivery of programmes should take into account the needs of disabled people, or, where appropriate, be adapted to accommodate their individual requirements. Institutions should consider making arrangements that ensure that all academic staff and technical staff: ■ ■

plan and employ teaching and learning strategies that make the delivery of the programme as inclusive as possible; know and understand the learning implications of any disabilities of their student whom they teach and are responsive to student feedback; Make individual adaptations to delivery that are appropriate for particular students.

The Disability Rights Commission is offering a conciliation service for students and institutions to reconcile any differences informally. If both parties do not agree to conciliation, or if conciliation fails, a student or applicant can take a case to a county court (in England or Wales) or a Sheriff court (in Scotland). Confidentiality Universities are expected to take reasonable steps to find out about a student’s disability. Once the university is aware that a student has a disability, either because it is obvious (e.g. visible) or the student has disclosed it, the institution has a responsibility not to discriminate. It is worth remembering that if a student tells his or her tutor that they have a disability then, in the eyes of the law, the student has informed the university. Students do, of course, have a right to confidentiality, both through the Data Protection Act and separately within the Disability Discrimination Act. However, for some courses there may be a particular health and safety requirement that means disabled students are required to disclose certain disabilities for the safety of themselves and others.


Appendix II

Further information on specific disabilities and support organizations

Action for ME: Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (ASBAH): British Council of Disabled People: The National Autistic Society: British Dyslexia Association: Epilepsy Action: Dyspraxia Foundation: Mental Health MIND: O.A.S.I.S. (Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information Resources): Royal National Institute for Deaf People: Royal National Institute for Blind People: SKILL: National Bureau for students with disabilities: TechDis (For information on making electronic materials accessible): University students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome:



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Index Page numbers in italics refer to tables; a indicates appendices. abstract and concrete reasoning 44 activating prior learning 34–5, 43–4, 139–40 active learning 1–2, 9–10, 140; see also interactive lectures active processing of information 20 additional information notes, handouts of 108–9 Afro-Caribbeans, inclusivity issues 193–4 aggression 75 Agnew, C. 11 Alexander, S. 163 amount of content 37–8, 91–2, 206 analogy 44 animations 95–6 anxieties see nerves/anxieties ‘Arts Today’ lecture 10–11 assessments 17, 141 assisted note-taking 187 attendance, poor 75–7 attention, gaining 33–4 audio recordings 124–5, 164–5; see also e-lectures; podcasts audio-visual aids: choice of 78–9; incompetent use of 208–9; learning styles 45; poor 208; see also PowerPoint; visual aids Ausubel, D. 34 Baird, D.E. and Fisher, M. 165 Barker, H. et al. 11 Barnett, L. 26–7 Baume, B. 68–9, 70 Baume, D. and Baume, C. 78 before and after test 140 Biggs, J. 2, 133 biochemistry lecture 48 biological science, interactive handout 115–18 blackboards 79–81 blank mind, strategies for controlling 66 Bloom’s Taxonomy for cognitive domain 3, 4 body language 126–7 Boice, R. 19 boredom: avoidance through variety 38–9, 124–36, 140; monotonous voice 54, 124, 160, 209; ‘traditional’ lectures 1

brain localization studies 44–5 branching presentation 142 breathing technique 63, 64 Brown, G. 21; and Atkins, M. 39–40, 42, 44 Bruner, J. 44 Burgan, M. 2 case studies 41; interactive handout 115–18; podcasts 168–75; PowerPoint 101–3; sequencing discussions using handsets/ keypads 142, 143; see also examples from different disciplines chatting at the back 69–72 chemistry lecture 48–9 chronological structuring 40 classical structuring 39 closure 47; evaluation 199 cognitive domain, Bloom’s Taxonomy 3, 4 colour-blindness 183 colours 85, 92–3 comparative structuring 40 complete the list activities 110 computer technology 45; downloads 114–15; e-lectures 154, 166–8; electronic flipcharts 81; interactive whiteboards 82–3; see also handsets/key pads (KPs); podcasts; PowerPoint concrete and abstract reasoning 44 confidence: improving 66–7, 68; lack of 60; pretending/emulating 63 confidentiality, students with disabilities 214a confronting challenging behaviour 67, 68, 71–2 constructive alignment 2–5 contact time, effective use of 23–4 content: amount of 37–8, 91–2, 206; evaluation 198; podcast lectures 161–2; preparation 15, 17–21; structuring 37–47; ‘traditional’ lecture 9 context 15–17, 207; control and discipline issues 68–9; evaluation 198; structuring 32–7 control and discipline issues 67–8; aggression 75; chatting at the back 69–72;


INDEX confronting challenging behaviour 67, 68, 71–2; empathy strategy 74–5; in large lecture theatres 70, 73–4; late arrivals 72–3; policy and context view 68–9; poor attendance 75–7 copyright issues 96–8, 128, 156 ‘core’/essential vs ‘optional’ material 21, 23 cost-effectiveness 6–7 course documentation 16 ‘coursecasting’ 152 Crawford, P. 193–4 Crowe, C. and Pemberton, A. 120–1 cultural differences 126–7, 188–9, 193–4 curriculum 8–9, 11, 35, 36, 207 Dale, C. 160, 161 Davis, B.G. 21 definitions, spaces for in handouts 110 demonstrations 127 diagrams 23, 110–11 disability: lecturers’ responses 74–5, 180–1, 182; legal issues 212–14a; medical and social models of 179–80; specific types and strategies 181–7; support organizations 215a discipline see control and discipline issues discussions, use of handsets 141, 142, 143 distance learning 164–5 downloads 114–15; see also podcasts Draper, S. 147–8 dress codes 56 dyslexia 185–7 e-lectures 154, 166–8 Eastcott, D. and Farmer, R. 202–3 economics lectures 28–30, 170–2 Edirishingha, P. et al. 164–5 Edwards, H. et al. 10–11 electrical engineering lecture 145 electronic flipcharts 81 empathy strategy, control and discipline issues 74–5 ERA (Educational Recording Agency) Licence 128 essential/‘core’ vs optional material 21, 23 evaluation: criteria 197–9; external 199–200; feedback 128–9, 131–2, 201–5; of handouts 113; by handset 142; microteaching 201–2; peer evaluation of teaching (PET) 200; student evaluation of teaching (SET) 200–1 examples from different disciplines 10–11; handsets 147–50; interactive lectures 144–6; preparation 25–30; structuring lectures 48–9; see also case studies experiential learning cycle 6


explanations: poor 209; use of 43–5 external evaluation 199–200 feedback 128–9, 131–2, 201–5 Feinstein, J. 172–5 first five minutes 65–6 Fisher, A. 168–70 flipcharts 81, 82 flowcharts 23, 110–11 foci, outlining structure 42 frames, outlining structure 42 gaining attention 33–4 gapped notes 109 Gardner, H. 45 General Medical Council 199 general practice lecture 48 genetics lecture 148–50 geography lectures 11, 144 graphics and images 87, 95–6 graphs 95, 110–11 greetings and personal introductions 33, 34, 57 group tasks 111–12, 133–6 guest lecturers 125–6 handouts 25–6; as information providers 106–9; pre-lecture notes and downloads 114–15; quality 112–13; student evaluation 113; to support interaction and active learning 109–12; updating 113; uses of 105–6; voting 131; when to distribute 113–14 handsets/key pads (KPs) 137–43; advantages of 139; applications 139–42; definition and use 137–8; examples from different disciplines 147–50; and related equipment 138; sequencing discussions 142, 143 Hargis, J. and Wilson, D. 165 health care lectures see medical education lectures; nursing lectures hearing impairment 183–5 Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) 199 history lecture 11 history of lecturing 1–2 humour 39, 52, 56, 67 hypothetico-deductive system 41 images and graphics 87, 95–6 inclusivity 189–91; nursing lectures 193–5; philosophy lectures 191–3 incomplete handouts 111, 132–3 individual differences see learning styles; teaching styles individual interactive handouts 109–10, 111–12

INDEX individual student tasks 128–33 induction and deduction 41 information: handouts as 106–9; see also content intellectual property rights (IPR) see copyright issues intelligences, types of 45 interactive handouts 111–12, 115–18, 132–3 interactive lectures 120–1; as aid to learning 121–2; challenges of 122–4; examples from different disciplines 144–6; individual student tasks 128–33; pair or group tasks 133–6; and variety 124–36; see also handsets/key pads (KPs) interactive whiteboards 82–3 international students 177–8, 187–9 Internet: and PowerPoint vehicles 88, 98–9; see also podcasts introductions: personal 33, 34, 57; topic 34 iPods see podcasts irrelevance/relevance 35, 207 Jones, A. 101–3 Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) 6 key pads (KPs) see handsets/key pads (KPs) knowledge acquisition, application and problem solving testing 141 Kolb, D. 6 large lecture theatres: control and discipline issues 70, 73–4; cost-effectiveness 6–7; see also nerves/anxieties; voice late arrivals 72–3 Leacock, S. 1 learning context see context learning outcomes 3, 4, 35–6, 206–7; evaluation 198 learning styles 5–6; and individual differences 44–5; and podcasts 165–6 lecture, definition of 1 lecture notes 22–3, 66, 190–1; handouts of 106–7 Lee, M.J.W. and Chan, C. 165 life sciences lecture 101–3 links, outlining structure 43 Loudon, G.M. 163 Lujan, H.L. and DiCarlo, S.E. 20 MacNevin, A.L. 126 making mistakes, fear of 61 Manning, G. 146–7 maps, spaces for in handouts 110–11 Mason, J.H. 25–6 mathematics lectures 25–6, 144, 172–5 mature students 191 medical education lectures 48, 145–7

medical and social models of disability 179–80 Meskin, A. 191–3 metaphor 44 microbiology lecture 27–8 microphones 55, 160 microteaching 201–2 module leader/designer 16 mood 33, 197 Morgan, C.W. 170–2 Morgan, W. 28–30 motivation to learn 35 MP3 files/players see podcasts Myers–Briggs Type Indicator 6 narrative structure 31–2, 41–2, 46 nerves/anxieties 59–60; reasons for 60–1; strategies for controlling 61–6; symptoms 60 Nicol, D.J. and Boyle, J.T. 142, 143 non-attendance 75–7 non-native English speakers 177–8, 187–9 non-Western art, inclusivity issue 192–3 nursing lectures 48, 144–5, 193–5 O’Neill, M. and Pennington, G. 202–3 opinions/student responses 141, 142 optional vs essential/‘core’ material 21, 23 overhead projector (OHP) 83–4 pace of delivery 51, 130, 209 pair tasks 133–6 Paradi, D. 90 Parker, I. 89 peer evaluation of teaching (PET) 200 personality classification 6 philosophy lectures 168–70, 191–3 podcasts: advantages and disadvantages of 154–5, 163–4; case studies 168–75; copyright issues 156; definition 152–3; institutional systems and support 156–7; lecture formats 157–9; recording lectures 159–62; six-point guide 158; student views 164; technology 153–4; to support learning needs 162, 163, 165–6 ‘pointcasts’ 166 Post-it™ notes 131 PowerPoint: Action Buttons 99; charts and graphs 95; colours 92–3; copyright and intellectual property rights (IPR) 96–8; designing slides 92–8; e-lectures 154, 166; graphics and images 95; guidance for students 100–3; incorporating digital images, animations and video 95–6; keyboard shortcuts 98; layout 93–5; printing notes 100, 101–3; templates 93;


INDEX text 92–3; use in lectures 98–100; use of overlays 84 practice development 205 pre-lecture notes 114–15 pre-release podcasts 159 preparation: content 15, 17–21; context 15–17; effective use of contact time 23–4; examples from different disciplines 25–30; lecturer’s expertise/student’s perspective 24; process 21–3; starting point 14; as strategy for controlling nerves 62–3; structure 19–21 presentation: problems and solutions 206–9; skills evaluation 198–9 printing notes 100, 101–3 prior learning, activating 34–5, 43–4, 139–40 Problem Based Learning (PBL) 135–6, 146–7 process structuring 40 progressive muscle relaxation 65 PRS (personal response system) EduCue in genetics lecture 148–50 psychology lectures 10, 147–8 Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) 199, 200; Code of Practice for students with disabilities 214a question-taking 46–7 question/answer handouts 111 question/answer sessions 128–9 quizzes 130 Race, P. 78, 131 relaxation techniques 64, 65 relevance/irrelevance 35, 207 revision notes 159 ‘role modelling’ 136 Ronkowkski, S.A. 19 RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology 153 Sanders, P. 10 screencasting 154 self-consciousness 61 sentence formation 52 sequential structuring 39 Sherin, N. 1 sign language 185 signposting 35, 42 skeleton notes, handouts of 107–8 slides see overhead projector (OHP); PowerPoint social and medical models of disability 179–80 Sockett, L. 27–8, 148–50 spatial structuring 40


spoken vs written language 51–2 stage directions 23 ‘stage fright’ see nerves/anxieties stimuli: for thinking 45–6; varying 38–9, 124–36, 140 structure/structuring: closure 47; content 37–47; context 32–7; examples from different disciplines 48–9; narrative 31–2, 41–2, 46; preparation 19–21 student evaluation of teaching (SET) 200–1 study skills lectures 26–7, 190 summaries 46–7, 107, 157–9 teaching ‘diary’ 29–30 teaching styles 55–6, 122 text additions 110 thinking categories 45–6 time/timing issues 23–4, 130 Towers, M. 194–5 ‘traditional’ lecture format: advantages of 7–9; history of 1–2; vs e-lectures 166–7; vs PBL 136; vs podcasts 160 Tufte, E. 89 updating handouts 113 variety 38–9, 124–36, 140 video clips 95–6, 127–8 videocasting 154 visual aids 79–83, 126, 193; colours 85; images and graphics 87; pre-prepared 83–7; words 85–6; see also PowerPoint visual impairment 181–3 vodcasting 154 voice: common problems with delivery 53–4, 209; effective use of 50–1; monotonous 54, 124, 160, 209; problems with and care of 52–3; projecting 54–5; recording lectures 160 voting 131 vulnerability, sense of 61 Vygotsky, L. 43 whiteboards 79–81; interactive 82–3 ‘widening participation’ see inclusivity Wierzbicki, R.J. 166 women, inclusivity issues 191–2 words: and sentence formation 52; visual aids 85–6 written feedback 131–2 written vs spoken language 51–2 Young, M.C. 188–9