CTL Blog

Improve Your Lecture

August 11, 2009 | 1 Minute Read


For many teachers, lecturing is a preferred method of delivering information to learners. But is it an optimal method? Research shows that students capture only 20-40 percent of a lecture’s main ideas in their notes (Kiewra, 2002). And if there is no review of the material, students may remember less than 10 percent after three weeks (Bligh, 2000).

So how can we ensure that students learn the content of our lectures and retain it? Here are some strategies:

  1. Aim for 3 to 5 main points in each lecture.
  2. Begin the lecture by asking a high-level question that the upcoming information can answer.
  3. Prepare a handout of the lecture’s main points.
  4. During a lecture, be explicit about what students should focus on.
  5. Throughout a lecture, give students short breaks to review their notes and ask questions.
  6. Include a formal activity or assignment after every 15 to 20 minutes of presentation.
  7. Don’t use too many different types of presentation materials at once.
  8. Don’t give students two conflicting things to attend to at the same time.
  9. Use examples from student life, current events, or popular culture.
  10. Ask students to generate their own examples from personal experience.
  11. Tell students how new information relates to previous lectures in your course.
  12. Show students how specific skills can be applied to real-world problems.
  13. Create activities and assignments that ask students to fit new information into the overall themes of the course.

Source: Tomorrow's Professor, The Standford University Center for Teaching and Learning. Photo: Aaron M. Sears. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND.