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What is Interactive Lecture?

Interactive lectures are classes in which the instructor incorporates engagement triggers and breaks the lecture at least once per class to have students participate in an activity that lets them work directly with the material. The engagement triggers capture and maintain student attention and the interactive lecture techniques allow students to apply what they have learned or give them a context for upcoming lecture material. Newcomers might want to begin with one activity during a class period, but may eventually call upon a blend of various interactive lecture techniques all in one class period. Breaking up the lecture with these techniques not only provides format change to engage students, these activities also allow students to immediately apply content and provide feedback to the instructor on student understanding.

An Evocative Headline and a Think-Pair-Share: One way to transform a traditional lecture into an interactive lecture would be to have students discuss a headline from the student newspaper.
Suppose your institution's football team is headed for a bowl game. In an economics class, you might ask students to individually consider the impact of this occurrence in the context of a supply and demand framework for the market for varsity sportswear at your institution. After students have a minute to consider the impact on their own, they then share and discuss their answer with one or two classmates sitting near by. The newspaper headline serves as an engagement trigger to capture student attention and the subsequent activity is an example of a form of the think-pair-share learning structure that allows an immediate response to or application of the content. Calling on some groups for their responses and allowing discussion as a class reinforces the content application and aids in learning.'

The Basic Structure of Interactive Lecture

The goal of interactive lecture is to engage students by finding ways for them to interact with the content, the instructor, and their classmates. Accordingly, interactive lectures include segments of lecture combined with segments where students interact. One of the things that makes the lecture interactive is the ability of the instructor to choose the content of the lecture segments based on the students' needs. If students have difficulty answering a question, or an activity goes astray in many or most student groups, it's time to find a new and better way to deal with the material.

Instructors can also think of the value of format change during a class period in two ways.

  1. Format change is valuable in its own right for recapturing attention and engaging students.
  2. Also, the new format is often a better way to teach a topic or get a point across.

All of the activities used to make lectures interactive involve a learning curve for both instructors and students. Instructors must learn how to develop good questions, analyze the student responses, and incorporate that information into the following lecture segment or the next class period. As with many active-learning techniques, interactive lectures may take longer to cover any given topic than non-interactive ones. Mazur (1997) recommends that the lecturer save time by only going over more difficult and important material rather than duplicating the coverage of the textbook.

Triggers, Tasks, and Techniques

Lecturers can use a variety of interactive activities to engage their students in a wide array of contexts and with multiple learning goals.

  • The instructor might want to open with some sort of engagement trigger to capture student attention. The instructor must also find a learning task that serves as the center of the interactive lecture segment.
  • To create an interactive lecture segment, the instructor must next select an interactive lecture technique from the many possible learning techniques available. Given that the possibilities are extensive and that new techniques can be formed from permutations and combinations of the structure types, the options are limitless. Learn about a few possibilities for interactive teaching techniques, which are categorized as Basic, Intermediate and Advanced based on the amount of preparation and class time required for an activity.

Engagement Triggers and Tasks for Interactive Segments