Strategies for improving the effectiveness of lectures, regardless of classroom, center on breaking up the lecture into digestible pieces (~15 minutes or less) that are interspersed with short activities that engage students. And by short, we're talking 2-6 minutes! Johnston and Cooper (1997) offer eight different "Quick-thinks," a few of which are highlighted below. See the full list of Quick-thinks, with examples, reprinted with permission by Tomorrow's Professor on this page.
Overview of select Quick-thinks from Johnston and Cooper (1997):
- Select the best response
This may be the quickest of the Quick-thinks as long as you have some multiple choice questions on hand. Don't be tempted to identify the correct answer right away though! Give the students some time to grapple with the options and why one of the options is the best out of the bunch. I often used old test questions for this sort of exercise in my lower-level classes and found that some of the distractors provided much-needed opportunities to address misunderstandings or preconceived notions.
- Complete a sentence starter
The sentence starter can be simple and focused on recall (e.g., List the three main points of...), ask students to apply information from the lecture (e.g., Predict what will happen if...), or even venture into analysis (e.g., ______ is in direct contrast to ______ because ______).
- Reorder the steps
Great option for anything process-oriented. Provide students with the name of each step but in a random order and provide them with 2-3 minutes to put the steps in the correct order.
- Paraphrase the idea
Ask students to express an important idea, statement, or argument from the lecture in their own words. Johnston and Cooper (1997) recommend also identifying the audience for the rephrased content, e.g., classmate, internship supervisor, parent.
- use amplification - so important when some students are facing away from you!
- provide students with a cue to shift focus from groups to instructor and/or screen.
All active learning classrooms at UWEC are equipped with a wireless lapel mic, so amplification is available. Believe me, I'm not a microphone person, but the mic's impact is noticeable to those in the room, especially those seated facing away from the instructor. It is a worth a try!
Note, also, that these two recommendations can be one in the same. The cue for students to transition from interaction within the group to something being presented to/shared with the whole class could be an announcement by the instructor using the microphone. Communicate this - or any cue - with students in advance so that they know what to look and/or listen for!
Johnston, S., & Cooper, J. (1997). Quick-thinks: Active thinking in lecture classes and televised instruction. Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, 8(1), 2-6.