The first step in providing an interactive lecture experience is to offer attention to pre-instructional planning and classroom management. Once this is done, instructors can use a variety of interactive activities to engage their students in a wide array of contexts and with multiple learning goals. It is in this step that the instructor
- chooses content
- establishes learning objectives
- considers incentive structure
- designs overall classroom atmosphere for participation, and
- addresses logistical issues
to ensure that the classroom environment is conducive to successful interactive lectures. When introducing interactive techniques into lecture, it is crucial for instructors to step back for a moment and consider what they are doing in the classroom and why they are doing it. Time and energy devoted to pre-instructional planning and classroom management considerations will make the interactive lecture segments, and the overall classroom experience, positive and more productive.
Deliberate Content Choice
As is the case 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 during class rather than duplicating the coverage of the textbook. Given that it is important in his classes that students actually do the reading, he gives frequent reading quizzes. It is true that no matter what teaching techniques an instructor uses, he or she should always scrutinize content choice, but when incorporating new pedagogical techniques it becomes crucial to carefully evaluate content choice and choose deliberately.
Often, interactive lecture techniques are useful in their own right merely as a way of changing format and breaking up the lecture. However, the more compelling reason for using such techniques is that they provide a more effective and powerful tool for conveying content. But in order to select the most appropriate learning structure, the instructor must establish clear learning objectives. Suggestions for identifying and developing objectives are available and while directed toward economists, they can be adapted to any discipline.
Incentive Structures and Student Participation
One of the biggest challenges of using any pedagogical technique that calls for interaction is to get all students to truly be engaged and participate. There are things the instructor might try during class, but there are also measures that might be taken in designing the overall course structure that can facilitate effective interactive lectures. When designing the incentive structure for the course there are a few things instructors might try:
- Offer some sort of participation grade tied to short products students produce during interactive lecture segments. Students can submit a composite of answers to quiz questions, short writing pieces, solved problems, what they produce in a one-minute write, etc.
- Inform students that questions used during interactive segments may potentially appear in some form on your exams so that implicitly these questions weigh in through exam grades.
- Consider giving students credit for completing a task even though you do not actually grade the content of the response. This keeps the incentive structure in place for students without placing an overwhelming burden on the instructor.
General Classroom Management
Effective classroom management skills are essential for effective interactive lectures. Management occurs 1) before the exercise as the instructor establishes the atmosphere and tone, 2) during the exercise and 3) after the exercise as the instructors brings the class back together and determines the degree to which a synopsis should be done.
Structuring and Managing the Interactive Class Session
Managing the Large Enrollment Course
Conducting interactive lectures in large enrollment courses can pose a unique set of challenges and the instructor will want to consider additional managerial strategies to meet these challenges. Instructors need to pay extra attention to being organized and prepared, the dissemination of course materials, encouraging student participation and incorporating pedagogical technologies. With careful planning, even classes with hundreds of students can have interactive lecture segments with engaged students.