How to Engage Students in Lecture

Lecturers face a very human challenge: research shows that most students' attention diminishes after 10 minutes of listening, and that keeping their attention is crucial to helping them learn. Below are various strategies and suggestions to help you retain--or regain--that attention in lecture.

  • Provide an outline of the lecture rather than your notes, so that students must focus on filling in details and making connections.
  • During the lecture, change material or vary your delivery every fifteen minutes.
  • Use visual materials like maps or tables of data to demonstrate how to pose a question or identify a problem
  • Punctuate the lecture with questions and poll students to find out their answers
  • Make specific reference to the readings, clarifying their relevance or importance
  • Distribute handouts with passages for students to analyze or problems for them
    to solve
  • Invite AIs or other guest lecturers to make short presentations on their areas 
    of expertise
  • Display your enthusiasm and energy by making eye contact, using facial expressions, choosing vivid language, and moving around the room.
  • Use examples, provide periodic summaries, and take pauses, allowing students to process information and ideas.
  • Generate future participation by assigning a one-minute paper at the end of the lecture in which students identify a question the lecture has provoked. Ask them to raise their questions in lab or precept.

For additional pedagogical resources, visit the Graduate Students and Faculty webpages.