‘Tis the Season for Responsive Lecturing

A few years ago I went to a pedagogy round table at a conference. It was an excellent panel which involved some small group discussion. One of the members of my group proclaimed that they, “would never lecture again. The flipped classroom was the only way to teach.” I was taken aback by this statement but with a few years less teaching under my belt, didn’t challenge the statement.

I will challenge it now.

I love having an active classroom. Most of my classes have multiple components as I have written about on this blog. But, these classes depend on students coming to class at a certain level of preparedness and sometimes that isn’t a fair expectation for my students.

Today, my survey class submits their 10-12 page research papers. This is a major part of their grade and a major goal for the course. I’ve commented on drafts and responded to formatting questions all week. My students are busy and have kept me busy.

I have this paper due before thanksgiving so that they have feedback before the final and in the hopes that this will spur conversation about how they can improve–something that is much less likely to happen if the paper is treated as the final.

But that means I have content still to cover and tired, busy students. The Civil War always happens in my class and for the past few class sessions I have moved the narrative forward by lecturing.  It is a change of pace for my class and one that my students recognize.  They aren’t bored by it because we haven’t done it often.  And, it isn’t boring.

I use a few different strategies when I lecture so my students also don’t feel like I’m droning on.  I bet, if you asked them, they wouldn’t realize all of the strategies WERE lecture-based.  Last Wednesday, we talked about perceived cultural differences between north and south and my lecture was shaped by stories–Moby Dick, Rip Van Winkle, Last of the Mohicans, Uncle Tom’s Cabin–and paintings.  It was a responsive lecture so my students were still asking questions and I wasn’t just walking them through a chronological narrative, I was telling them tales.  

Friday’s class was a traditional lecture; part 1 of the Coming of the Civil War.  My students knew it was a traditional lecture and took copious notes.  But again, that was such a change of pace for them that they palpably appreciated a classroom strategy that they understood.  They were tired, they wanted the classroom equivalent of comfort food and, for once, I gave it to them.

Today’s class will also be a lecture but it will be entirely driven by questions they ask.  I’ll show them images of 19th century reform, they will form questions, and I will use those questions to chunk up my lecture.  It requires them to be present and attentive but not particularly prepared.  

I don’t think these are novel strategies to most of you but I think we don’t always appreciate the many ways we can adapt our really great lectures to be responsive and engaging.  And, I think we rarely admit that there are times when our students should be putting their energy into other parts of class.  The last week of class we are back to source-based discussion and other active classroom strategies, but for today–we lecture.  

How do you adapt your lectures to be responsive and engaging?  

One thought on “‘Tis the Season for Responsive Lecturing

  1. I absolutely agree. Good lecturing is a necessary part of nearly every classroom, and banning it altogether is silly. I especially agree with one of your last points: students can only focus on so many items, so sometimes a lecture can save their mental bandwidth for something else. I could go on, but you have summarized much of it very well. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *