The ComPADRE Collections

Interactive Lecture Techniques

Initial Publication Date: September 22, 2011


The third step to providing an interactive lecture is to select an activity from the many possible learning techniques that are available. This is done after the instructor has determined what learning task the students must complete and has selected a potential engagement trigger. Given that the possibilities for technique choice are extensive and new techniques can be formed from premutations and combinations of the basic types, the options are limitless. Several possibilities are shown here and categorized as basic, intermediate and advanced based on preparation and class time required. However, even these classifications are somewhat loose as any of these techniques can be modified to fit all three classifications. Each detailed technique link provides a more thorough description, an explanation of the advantages of the technique, the steps required for implementation, challenges to anticipate, and specific examples.


  • Think-pair-share activities pose a question to students that they must consider alone and then discuss with a neighbor before settling on a final answer. This is a great way to motivate students and promote higher-level thinking. A think-pair-share can take as little as three minutes (quick-response) or can be longer (extended response), depending on the question or task.
  • One-minute write activities ask students to stop what they are doing a produce a written response in only one minute. This technique can be used to collect feedback on understanding by asking them to identify what they thought the most confusing point was or to voice a question. It can also allow students an opportunity for immediate application.
  • Question of the day exercises are short activities for the beginning of class that engage students with the lecture material in a short project that requires students to think actively about the content. The instructors poses a question that is generally not multiple-choice but rather requires short explanations, annotations, calculations, or drawings that develop communication skills as well as higher-level thinking.


  • Demonstrations may involve all students or a subset demonstrating to the entire class a concept or principle that has just been taught or will be taught. Demonstrations can engage direct and indirect participants and can be applied to a wide variety of topics. Effective demonstrations ask students to predict outcomes, experience the demonstrations, and reflect by comparing the prediction and actual outcomes.
  • ConcepTest questions are conceptual multiple choice questions that are used to assess student understanding. Students work on the questions individually. These questions can be used to promote higher-level thinking such as analysis, critical thinking, and synthesis. As these questions take little time, you can ask several in a class period. They provide a quick objective assessment of students' prior knowledge or of how much of the class understood your lecture. (On whichever concept quiz page we go with include link to clicker page)
  • Role playing activities put the student in the position of a relevant decision maker forcing them to apply the content to determine a policy or solve a problem. This often calls upon higher order thinking skills and the synthesis of ideas and when students do this it groups, negotiation skills become important as well.
  • Skeleton Notes offers examples of skeleton or partial note handouts or power points slides that maintain intellectual engagement throughout the class period by forcing students to complete partials notes as the lecture progresses. These require an initial investment in terms of preparation, but are then easily available for subsequent semesters.


  • Simulations are often a form of extended demonstration that also can require more preparation and class time, but they allow students to analyze more complex situations and produce a broader range of responses.
  • Experiments are a form of active learning that can take more time for instructors to develop and require more class time, but they too allow students to tackle more complex problems.

Further Reading

Interactive Lectures: summaries of 36 formats offers a number of different ideas for in-class exercises and advice on incorporating them effectively into lecture.