17 September 2009


Presenting information in lectures require careful planning so that the precious class time will not be wasted. Since learning is an interpretative process, new information needs to be integrated with what is already known. deWinstanley and Bjork suggested 5 processes that affect much on how students learn. Attention - divided attention is most detrimental during encoding of new information. What is worse is that "divided attention during a lecture may leave students with a subsequent sense of familiarity ... without the concomitant ability to recall or recognize the material on a direct test of memory". Interpretation and Elaboration - learning requires accurate interpretation and thorough elaboration. Students need to know the "story" behind the new information. Simply presenting a graph or a formula does not help the students to learn why and how the new information can be used. Generation and Retrieval Practice - students learn better if they generate the information rather than just passively absorb information. If students are asked to retrieve information, it is more likely they will recall the information later. Students can create concept maps / reflective blogs / contribute to discussion forums as means of generating the information they have learned.

Other techniques that can promote long term retention of information in the lectures include: spacing - distributing rather than massing the presentations of information at the same time, (an example of spacing is the spiral curriculum, i.e. start with an introduction, then drill down into the topics in the next interaction, and then focusing more details in further iterations), presenting material from more than one standpoint, providing outline (but not too much detail), having students to generate their outline, using visual images and other mnemonic devices, analogies, humor, having the students to make predictions and elaborate interrogation.

To keep student attention, one can also use appropriate games, toys, simulators, play, etc. Interactivity is important to engage students. Pollard and Duvall suggested also using prizes, games, good competition, creating artwork, media, acting out (algorithms), and even rewarding students with stickers and smileys on their papers.

Getting students to generate / reproduce information is a powerful tool. Invention activities are one way to get students attempt the solution and then apply the concept to another area.

Hichens and Lister noted that students expect the teachers to go beyond what is written in the lecture notes, and the teachers to assess student learning during the lectures and adjust the teaching accordingly. Reading straight out from the lecture slides, or making them feel bad / lazy, and going over material too fast / too slow are absolute no no's!


deWinstanley, Patricia Ann and Bjork, Robert, A. (2002). Successful Lecturing: Presenting Information in Ways That Engage Effective Processing. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. No. 89, pp 19- 31.

Hitchens, Michael and Lister, Raymond. (January 2009). A Focus Group Study of Student Attitudes to Lectures. Eleventh Australian Computing Education Conference.

Pollard, Shannon and Duvall, Robert. (2006). Everything I Needed to Know About Teaching I Learned in Kindergarten: Bringing Elementary Education Techniques to Undergraduate Computer Science Classes. SIGCSE 2006. Pp 224 - 228.

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