This page is intended to provide guidance and tips for researchers who are asked to lecture to students. If this is the first time you have been involved in teaching, you will most likely be asked to deliver one or two lectures rather than a whole lecture course. These will probably be in a field where you have expertise. Alternatively you may be asked to stand in for a regular lecturer. You may be less familiar with the topics being covered, but the regular lecturer may well have already prepared material that you can use.
This page covers:
- preparing a lecture
- delivering a lecture
- supporting the learners
- evaluating the effectiveness of the lecture
- helpful resources (textbooks and online).
Often the most practical support can come from your own university or institution – either formally, through a workshop or training course, or informally from colleagues with experience of lecturing. Make sure you tap into these resources to help you get started.
Preparing a lecture is similar to preparing a research presentation. However, the audience will be students, not experienced colleagues, so some additional considerations are needed.
Firstly, make sure you are clear about what you have been asked to do. Find out what the students have already covered in the lecture course, and what comes next, so that you don’t duplicate material. Find out what the learning outcomes for the lecture course are. Make sure that you structure your lecture so that these outcomes are achieved.
Plan your content, just as you would do for any other type of presentation. Enliven it with pictures, quotes, diagrams, real-life examples, etc., as needed. Make sure you are pitching your content at the right level for the audience; an introductory lecture for first-year students will need a slightly different approach to a specialist lecture for an Honours class.
You may need to prepare handouts as well as Powerpoint slides. See the supporting the learners section for guidance on preparing handouts.
When preparing your own lecture:
- make sure you are clear about what you have been asked to do
- find out what the students will cover in preceding or subsequent lectures to make sure that you don't duplicate
- find out what the learning outcomes are for the whole lecture series and think about how you can help students achieve them in your lecture
- research your content. Try and find pictures, diagrams, quotes, real-life examples, anecdotes, stories and practical applications that support your content. These will really help to enrich it and bring it to life
- decide how you will organise your content - according to a chronology, problem presentation and solution(s), rule/example, logical derivation, relationships between topics/issues, etc. The supporting the learners section provides more advice on how to structure and organise your lecture content
- prepare supporting handouts and/or PowerPoint presentation.
As with any other type of presentation, advance preparation is important. If you can, visit the lecture room beforehand, or arrange to arrive early, so that you can check how the equipment works and make sure it is in working order.
If there is a technician available, make use of their skills. You may want to programme their number into your mobile ’phone in case of any emergencies during the lecture! Computers and projectors have been known to break down while the lecturer is in mid-flow. If this happens to you, you will have to respond quickly and calmly, and get help without disrupting the class too much.
Speak slowly and project your voice (without shouting). If you are in a large lecture theatre or have any students with hearing impairments, use a radio microphone. Be aware of your body language. In particular, try to face the audience as much as possible. Maintain eye contact across the whole room; this really helps to maintain the students’ attention. There are more useful tips on the Presenting your Work page.
Make sure that your lecture is carefully structured – and explain the structure you are using.
- provide an introduction – an overview of the lecture. Use this to link your lecture with material that the students have covered previously
- make sure that students know when you are moving from one part of your structure to the next
- summarise the two or three key points in a conclusion. If you can, provide a link to material that will be covered in forthcoming lectures.
Be aware that students’ attention usually reaches a low point around 20 minutes in. Unless you make a conscious effort to regain their attention, you risk losing it for the remainder of the lecture. There are some good ideas for how to engage students on this web page from Oxford Brookes University.
If you are using handouts, be aware of the following:
- if students need information for reference, provide it on a handout – this makes sure that they have got it written down or drawn out accurately
- if students need to remember a key point, encourage them to write it down in their own words – don’t provide it on a handout
- if students need to understand something, work through it in the lecture and get students to complete a handout rather than providing them with all the information yourself.
Finally, give students the opportunity to ask questions, or to talk to you informally afterwards about anything they don’t understand.
If you can, ask a colleague to come and observe your lecture and give you feedback. Most lecturers have to do this as part of their professional development, and it may be one of the requirements if you are working towards a formal teaching qualification such as a PgCert. This example Teaching Observation form from the University of Hull provides some insight into the process.
- what went well
- what didn’t go so well
- were you aware of students’ reactions/body language in the lecture? Did they seem to be enjoying it?
- what would you do differently next time?
Do this as soon as possible after the lecture. It will provide a useful reference if you are asked to deliver the lecture again.
Lecturing for learning
Jennifer Hogan in Marshall, S, Fry, H. & Ketteridge, S (eds) (1999) A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Enhancing Academic Practice. London: Kogan Page.
Biggs, J. B. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Brown, S and Race, P. (2002) Lecturing: A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page.
Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, S. and Habeshaw, T. (1992) 53 Interesting Things to Do in Your Lecture. Bristol, TES
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