In this career tip we suggest strategies and tactics to improve communication, clarity and therefore the learning process of your students. Our advice is for people running courses but also for young scholars who have the opportunity to give occasional lectures and want to know what is the best way to structure a presentation and capture the attention of a class. Depending on your own situation, you will need to adapt the content of this page to your specific needs. Concerning teaching you may also want to check our tips on teaching and learning and how to design a course.
This is of key importance, as it sets the scene for the rest of the lecture. It has three basic purposes:
- Gaining the attention of the group
- Establishing a relationship with the group
- Providing the framework of the presentation
State clearly how the lecture will be structured, its different parts and the main issues covered.
During the lecture, you should make your speech or presentation easy to follow. To achieve that you should know what you intend to explain inside out. Making a summary at the beginning of your presentation will immidiately help people to orientate themselves through the content of the lecture.
During your lecture use structuring tactics to stress the importance of an argument that you are making (foci), the end of the argument and passage to a new argument (frames). And also use links to put together and relate the different parts of the lecture.
Clarity of communication is crucial for the transmission of knowledge. Try to follow these rules:
- Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard, especially in large rooms
- Control your tension, speak slowly: when nervous one usually speaks fast
- Avoid distracting mannerisms
- Improve clarity by repeating your points in two or three different ways
- Include examples or concrete ideas in your lecture
- Give students time to think and write, so that they can digest the information
- To keep up attention, change activities frequently
The conclusion of a lecture is as least as important as the other parts of it. When closing a lecture...
- Reinforce what has been said before
- Draw conclusions that link the topic of the lecture to other topics
- If you run a course, stress the issues that will be dealt with in the next stages
- Introduce the coming lecture
- Take a minute or two to rest, stretch, talk or even walk about (this should be mandatory for lectures of more than one hour!)
- Give students time to check their notes, ask questions and fill in any gaps
- Invite students to read and discuss each others' notes, and compare approaches
- Ask students to write down one or two precise questions
- Set a test: put up a few short questions on the lecture material
- Set a problem, e. g. a simple problem that needs to be solved using the principles that you have just taught
- What’s next? Invite students to consider what they need to do to improve their knowledge of the lecture topic and fix a time for them to do it
- Buzz groups: invite your students to form groups of 3-4 to discuss or solve the problem set, and then invite groups to present their solutions
It is important to spend some time reflecting on some common mistakes that lecturers make without being aware of them. By paying attention to them you will certainly improve the outcome of your teaching!
- Saying too much, too quickly
- Assuming that students have knowledge that they don't actually have
- Forgetting to provide a summary
- Using too much jargon and technical language
- Bad timing
- Not leaving students time to take notes, copy diagrams, etc.
- Not organising and dividing sections clearly
- Not stressing the major points and arguments of the lecture
- Lack of confidence in one's own knowledge
- Not linking sections together