The Lively Lecture-8 Variations
- The Exquisite Oral Essay
- The Participatory Lecture
- Problem Solving: Demonstrations, Proofs, and Stories
- Energy Shifts: Alternating Mini-lectures and Discussions
- Textual Exegesis: Modeling Analytical Skills
- Cutting Large Classes in Half Without Losing Control: Debates
- Smaller Groups in Large Classes: Simulations and Role Playing
- "Bells and Whistles:" The Affective, Emotional Media Presentation
The oral essay is a final polished work that skillfully treats a single intellectual question or problem. It has unity: the topic is introduced, illustrated, and concluded within a course period. This essay provides an "intellectual experience" for the students as they are treated to the professor's thinking on a specific topic. Oral essays, although inspirationally masterful, reduce students to passive observers, who are engaged at best in an internal dialogue.
The participatory lecture is best described as orderly brainstorming in which students generate ideas that are then organized in some rational, coherent pattern on the chalkboard. The only rule of brainstorming is to acknowledge every idea offered by writing it down. Once the board is filled, students can suggest categories and position the ideas in some coherent structure. At the end of class, the instructor or one student can be given the charge of copying the "concept map" and making copies for all the students in the class.
This lecture begins with a question, or a paradox, or an enigma, or a compelling unfinished human story&emdash;in essence, a problem that inspires student interest and require resolving. Solving the problem, depending on the discipline, may require a scientific demonstration, a mathematical proof, an economic model, the outcome of the novel's plot, or an historical narrative. While the instructor presents the problem, the students are asked to supply suggestions for the solution. These offerings can be discussed, debated, and even voted upon.
The following variation recognizes the conclusions of attention span studies by making clearly delineated 15-20 minute shifts in energy from the teacher to students and back again. Generally, the session begins with a 15-20 minute mini-lecture that sets the stage for an issue or topic, followed by 10-15 minutes of class discussion of implications and effects, followed by another mini-lecture that wraps up the topic or issue. This mini-lecture may provide ideas not offered in the discussion, put the discussion in a disciplinary perspective, or provide the instructor's unique insight on the topic.
Any size classroom provides an opportunity to practice an old-fashioned but effective instructional technique: explication du texte. By going into a text and reading and analyzing together, students can develop good reading and comprehension skills by seeing them modeled. Students can then be formed into groups to work through further passages. A further variation on this approach, especially for social science courses, is to use the class period to model other analytical skills to students&emdash;quantitative analysis of graphs, charts and tables, maps, interview schedules, and even interpretation of polling data.
A structured debate can achieve more student participation and engagement without changing the instructor's central and vital role in the classroom. Students can either be assigned a side of an issue to support, or they can come to class prepared to take a seat on one particular side of an issue. The instructor can serve as the moderator and mediator, guiding the debate process such that each side gets equal time for presentation and rebuttal.
The following variation is guaranteed to add energy, participation, and interaction to classes, and is adaptable to political science, economics, sociology, and other disciplines. Simulations generally begin with a mini-lecture that clearly establishes the context and setting for the role playing. Then the class is divided into a number of small groups, each representing a clearly designated role. Each group is assigned a specific, concrete task&emdash;usually to propose a position and course of action. The proposals emanating from the different groups will inevitably conflict with each other in same way&emdash;ideologically, tactically, racially, regionally, or over scarce resources.
An audio-visual presentation, whether it's a slide show, a video, or another uniquely-created program, has the potential to evoke affective, emotional learning by students. These presentations, especially ones with music, are designed to hook student emotions in order to arouse their interest, but there is also extensive content inherent in the visual images and lyrics. Class discussion can follow.
From College Teaching, Vol.34 (2), published by the HELDREF PUBLICATIONS, 4000 Albemarle Street, N.W., Washington, D.D. 20016.