Aren’t all lectures interactive to some extent?
Isn’t the real idea behind interactive lectures just entertaining the students?
While it is true that most teachers today do what they can to offer engaging lectures and interact with students, interactive lectures go beyond simply asking open-ended questions or having students work for a time in pairs.
The focus of interactive lectures is to engage students in both the material and learning process more holistically. Interactive classes have many benefits:
- They make the class more interesting and the subject more tangible.
- They help gauge student learning (make learning visible).
- They help integrate learning by involving more of the student.
- They add a level of practicality to lessons.
But most importantly, interactive lectures are about better pedagogy. The following tips will help in creating interaction and engagement that will not just make your classes more fun but more beneficial for your students.
Purposeful and Outcome Specific – All activities in an interactive lecture need to be purposefully created to meet or assess a specific learning outcome (or two). Think of interaction and engagement in terms of an assignment or assessment instead of entertainment. It is easy, in the rush of the day, to simply stop from time to time and ask a question of your class, see if anyone has questions, or even to ask them to discuss some issue in pairs. But if the activity doesn’t tie back to learning outcomes they often come across as busy work.
- First, ask what primary outcome you are seeking to meet (content mastery, application, or assimilation), then find an interactive exercise that meets that goal. For example, content mastery could include various recall activities such as polls, content maps, or fact sharing. Application or assimilation goals might utilize case studies or process maps.
Well Planned – Interactive lectures take time to plan and execute. Once you have an idea for how to engage your students, be sure to think it through clearly – from beginning to end. If it uses new or unfamiliar technology, make sure to practice the activity in the classroom or with the appropriate computer before trying it with your class. Make sure that all students have a way of participating in the activity by considering possible modifications.
- Think through your interactive plan when you create your syllabus. Schedule interactive lessons appropriately and then practice those interactions ahead of time. Also, start small when introducing interaction so if things don’t go as planned you haven’t wasted significant class time.
Expected – Be sure your students know they will be expected to participate in various activities. Letting your students know what they are going to do during the next class session, for example, will build a level of interest and might also encourage better preparation for class.
- Put key interactive lessons in your syllabus and announce them so students are aware of what’s coming. Build excitement toward the event and give students plenty of opportunity to be prepared.
Appropriately Incentivized – While learning should be its own reward, most of us want to know what’s in it for me before we jump in. Adding a low point grade or possible bonus points to the interaction not only helps get students more interested, but it also gives the exercise greater validity as a learning tool.
- While it might not seem like a lot, a 1% grade or bonus can add up over the course while not disincentivizing students to do the regular assignment. Non-grade incentives can also be used, such as dismissing class early if students accomplish an interactive exercise quickly but thoughtfully. For example, give a short quiz through Poll Everywhere and repeat it until the class average is 80%, then dismiss.
Start Small but Think Deep – As with most new things, starting small is the best practice with interactive lectures. Don’t try to revamp your entire class, or even an entire lecture right off the bat. Look for an assignment that you could modify to make it more interactive, or you could replace with something more so. Just remember, keep the goal is sight!
- If you are new to interactive lessons, think long-term while acting short-term. Start by adding one small interactive lesson every other week, with a goal of doubling that the next time you teach the course. In a similar vein, introduce simple interactions early in the semester and move to more complex activities as things progress.