Small Teaching Tip #4: Incorporate Active Learning into Your Lectures

Most faculty members have lectured to their students at some point in their careers. In traditional lectures, this means that the instructor speaks while students listen. While some lectures can be dynamic, engaging, and even entertaining, research has shown that student concentration typically drops after 10-15 minutes. With many questions during a traditional lecture being purely rhetorical, there are few opportunities for students to engage with the material or their instructor and classmates. What can you do to be sure that your students are engaged?

Try implementing low risk, high impact strategies such as interactive lecturing. Instead of a traditional hour-long lecture, break the content into several 10-15 minute “chunks.” In between each chunk, incorporate small, structured activities. This can be as simple as asking a question that requires student responses, encouraging students to participate in a brief think-pair-share exercise, or having students complete a one-minute paper. These active learning strategies will re-focus student attention as soon as concentration begins to drop while also giving you the opportunity to assess student comprehension throughout the lecture.

What kind of active learning strategies have you used to enhance your lectures? Please share your tips!


This post is part of a series which will present low risk, high reward teaching ideas. Inspired by James Lang’s book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, this series will inspire you to implement small but powerful changes to your teaching.