Learning through Interactive Lectures

Classroom Interactions for the Traditional Lecture Classroom

However fascinating your topic might inherently be, it might nevertheless be a good idea to make sure students are paying attention to what you say. What causes students to be ready to listen? The secret can be found in the game psychology concept of "onboarding." Games invite us into the game space by asking us to do something, however small and limited, on our own: click on something; roll the dice, etc. Our action becomes a small "investment" in the game, and we now look to see what happens as a result, and how other players react.

Similarly, in the classroom, when an instructor asks students to do something, the students now have something at stake. Their act of participation is a small investment, and they are now more interested to follow what happens next. A savvy instructor starts a lecture by asking students to DO something germane to what he/she is planning to lecture about: make a fun prediction; make an educated guess; try to solve a tough problem just by thinking; etc. Having committed to an action in this way on their own, students are now curious to hear what might be said, even before the instructor utters a word.

A similar strategy applies AFTER a segment of lecture. Ask students regularly to apply something you've said immediately to a new situation, as a way of testing their comprehenion on the fly. It also has the function of making them accountable for the information. If students know you're likely to ask them to use what you're saying, they'll develop over a short time the habit of listenting more carefully--and might even turn off their i-Phones!!

Learn more about: Interactive Lectures from Carleton College

Think-Pair-Share: A Quick Fix for Classroom Boredom

The easiest way to engage students within the framework of a traditional lecture is this simple technique.

1. Pose  a question to students, asking them to think quietly by themselves. This question should not be a factual recall or definition question, but rather a prediction or explanation, so students are asked to use course content in a new situation.

2. Ask students to discuss with one or more neighbors.

3. Engage students in an all-classroom discussion about the question posed. Because students have had a chance to discuss their thinking, the instructor can call on students to respond, rather than relying on volunteers.

Watch a video of Harvard's Eric Mazur, doing a demonstration of Think-Pair Share.