Structuring and Managing the Interactive Class Session

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006

The fourth step to providing an interactive lecture is to determine how to structure and manage the interactive class period. There are as many ways to structure an interactive class session as there are interactive techniques. Instructors might add an occasional activity to a regular lecture class, or include several activities in every class period. Some interactive techniques, such as think-pair-share or ConcepTests, can be repeated several times within one class period while others, such as extended simulations, may be the focus of an entire period.

Many instructors use a combination of different activities; for example, one could use a few quick individual ConcepTests primarily for assessment, to see if the students understand and can apply the lecture material to simple problems, and then get them working in groups on a more complicated problem that has them synthesize the current material within the content of previous lessons.

Example of multiple interactive techniques used in one class session.

The class starts with a 5-minute think-pair-share activity: "Summarize the main points of the reading assigned for this class." The discussion will focus them on the material, a good thing to do before lecture starts. It may be helpful to have them turn in their summaries on index cards for a minor grade, to discourage tardiness (especially in students who are trying to avoid this activity).

Lecture for about 10-12 minutes, then ask a ConcepTest question to determine if they understand the topic and can apply the ideas in it to simple problems. Evaluate the responses. If the class adequately mastered the concept, repeat the process with a new topic. If not, continue your lecture by reinforcing the topics.

For the last part of the class, perform a simulation that asks the students to apply all the concepts that have been presented in the class period up to that point. Finish the class period with a one-minute-write activity to be turned in on an index card: "What are two questions that you still have on today's topic?" The instructor will review the most representative of these in the last lecture segment of the next class.

However the class session is structured, effective classroom management skills are essential for ensuring the session goes smoothly and the activities are effective. Instructors must establish a comfortable and safe classroom atmosphere and tone conducive to interactive learning must be established, be aware of their role as classroom managers as they consider all aspects of the course, and manage the class during activities in ways that foster interaction.

Create a Classroom Atmosphere Conducive to Interactive Learning

If the classroom atmosphere is comfortable and nonthreatening to students, they will be more inclined to participate in interactive lecture segments. Instructors can enhance the overall tone in the classroom by making themselves approachable to students, knowing their audience, and helping students feel comfortable working with each other.

Be an Effective Classroom Manager Generally

Instructors must carefully manage the classroom for effective interactive lectures. This includes laying out expectations, coping with physical space, maintaining control, and determine how to disseminate information.

Be an Effective Classroom Manager During Interactive Segments

The instructor must manage the classroom during interactive segments. This includes providing clear instructions, definite time constraints, monitoring and responding to students, and monitoring activities.