How Do I Create Memorable Lectures?

How Do I Create Memorable Lectures?

Lecture written on a notepad

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An effective lecture emphasizes what content is important and uses a structure to help students organize new information in constructive ways (Ambrose et al., 2013). Students remember lectures when they have opportunities to process the new information and integrate it into their existing knowledge (Tharby, 2018; Weinstein & Sumeracki, 2019). Memorable lectures can lead to deeper learning and engagement, but creating lectures to achieve these goals can sometimes be challenging. In the strategies below, we provide specific examples for creating memorable lectures.

STRATEGIES AND EXAMPLES

Emphasize What’s Important

Connect your content and activities to your learning objectives. For each lecture, tell students how the material and activities relate what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course.

Be clear (to yourself especially) about The Big Why. Reflect on why you are choosing to share “this” information in a lecture instead of another medium (e.g., textbook, additional reading). Your Big Why should identify the greater purpose of lecture, like sharing enthusiasm about the topic, providing an alternative viewpoint on the topic, or helping to develop students’ skills (Barkley & Major, 2018). When identifying The Big Why, it’s helpful to ask yourself: “What do I want students to remember from this lecture or discussion next week? Next year?” (Fink, 2013).

Provide a Structure

Present information in a logical pattern. An organizing framework is helpful for understanding the content during the lecture. Depending on your lecture topic, structures like cause/effect, problem/solution, theory to practice, a time sequence or the use of familiar story structures can be particularly effective (Ambrose et al., 2013, Svinicki & McKeachie, 2014; Barkley & Major, 2018).

Provide a lecture map or guided notes. In addition to lecture slides and your verbal explanations, consider providing handouts that match the heading structure in your slides but with further detail. Alternatively, you could provide guided notes, which is essentially a skeleton outline of your lecture that allows students to “fill in the blank” during class.

Share how you organize and learn new information. Openly discussing with your students how your own organization of knowledge developed over time serves as model for how they can begin working on this skill (Ambrose et al., 2013). Don’t be afraid to share: misconceptions you once had; what influenced your thinking; and strategies you used to organize and remember ideas.

Help Direct Attention

Share lecture goals at the beginning of class. Come to class early and write goals or learning objectives on the board. If you are using PowerPoint, create a slide with your lecture goals and frequently revisit them in your presentation (or point to the goals on the board) throughout the lecture to help students see the structure.

Pause for Processing. Stop the lecture every 10-15 minutes to allow students to work in pairs to compare and rework their notes for 3-5 minutes, then ask what questions came up in their review (Stanley & Porter, 2002). Alternatively, you can implement a punctuated lecture, where after 15-20 minutes you pause and students answer a question about what they doing at that particular moment. This type of pausing will help students redirect their focus to the lecture.

Offer periodic summaries. Provide mini summaries of the proceeding material 1-3 times during the lecture to focus student note taking (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2014). Think of your lecture as two or more mini-lectures separated by 5-10 minutes of questions, discussion, or writing.

Ask for student-generated summaries. At the end of class, ask students to summarize the most important points they heard in the lecture. A few students can share their summaries, and then show your summary as a comparison. Alternatively, you could collect the summaries as a formative assessment of student learning.

Prompt Connections between Concepts

Activate prior knowledge at the beginning of class. Prompt students to engage in retrieval practice through low-stakes quizzes, free-writes, a concept map “brain dump” (i.e., a map of everything they’ve learned about a topic from memory) or to explain what they remember from the previous class to a peer (Weinstein & Sumeracki, 2019). By recalling what they already know, they are able to connect the new information they learn from the lecture.

Display a visual map of the lecture and how concepts fit together. Sometimes showing a visual structure of the information (like a concept map) helps students understand how concepts connect. You can diagram your thinking about a topic, visually show how concepts relate, encourage students to ask questions about why you organized your map the way you did, and frequently return to that visual throughout the lecture.

Engage students in elaborative interrogation in the middle of the lecture. Prompt students to ask themselves why and how things work and then produce answers to these questions (Weinstein & Sumeracki, 2019). The main goal is to ask a number of questions that encourage students to explain the main concepts.

Use visuals to solidify connections. Diagrams, illustrations, flowcharts, or icons can be used as concrete examples of abstract ideas, helping students understand and remember new information.

Please contact the CTL with any questions or for more details about the examples shared at ctl@umass.edu.

REFERENCES

Ambrose, S., et al. (2010). How learning works: 7 Research-based principles for smart teaching. Jossey-Bass.

Barkley, E., & Major, C. (2018). Interactive lecturing. Jossey-Bass.

Fink, D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. Jossey-Bass.

Stanley, C. A., & Porter, M. (2002). Engaging large classes: Strategies and techniques for college faculty. Anker Publishing Company.

Svinicki, M.D., & McKeachie, W.J. (2014). McKeachie’s teaching tips. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Tharby, A. (2018). How to explain absolutely anything to absolutely anyone: The art and science of teacher explanation. Crown House Publishing.

Weinstein, Y., & Sumeracki, M. (2019). Understanding how we learn. Routledg