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any tips for first time lecturer?

(21 Posts)
hatwoman Thu 28-Jun-07 10:31:32

I really need the basics. I have a small enough group to make it quite participatory. I have 3 hours to fill, with a break in the middle - how well planned do I need to be? What should my lecture notes look like? Do I need to more or less write an essay? Do I need to consciously break it up into chunks of me, chunks of them, chunks of discussion? I can't bear the thought of me droning on and on but I'm not sure where to start...

Ellbell Thu 28-Jun-07 10:44:52

Hi Hatty!

Three hours? Blimey!

A lot is going to depend on how much you can expect the students to know about the subject before you start. Will they have done some preparatory reading? Will you be able to expect some sort of 'intelligent discussion', or will they be totally dependent on you to 'feed' them with the info which they will then discuss?

I would avoid the temptation to write 'an essay' and I'd keep my lecture notes in 'note form'. You definitely want to avoid the temptation to read things out. My notes are often quite full, in the sense that I do tend to write down everything that I want to say/cover (can't rely on my memory!) but I never ever write full sentences. This makes me talk normally rather than droning on. (My students may beg to differ on the 'droning on' bit, but let's just say that it could be worse ).

I think that, at the start, I'd consciously break it up into chunks. So, perhaps, you introduce the subject. Then you get them to discuss some aspect of it in pairs/small groups (depending on size of group) and you ask them to feed back in some way (this will all depend on the subject, of course). Then you respond to the points that they raise, before moving on to the next part of the theme, and so on.

You may find that, as you go on in the course, the classes find a sort of 'natural balance', and that discussion 'just happens' rather than you needing to build it in consciously. But at the start, I'd manage it - again, to avoid the possibility of you 'droning on' (I'm sure you'd never 'drone', btw!) just to fill the silence left by their lack of discussion!

TBH, with a 3-hour slot, I'd be tempted to have two shorter breaks rather than just one halfway through. I do work in 2-hour timeslots sometimes, and I find that they really can't cope with more than an hour without becoming fidgety and losing concentration.

I don't know if you are a fan of powerpoint (I'm not!), but if you use it, keep it for key points, complicated quotations, necessary illustrations and such like. Do not be tempted to put the entire content of your lecture on powerpoint. I've seen people do this, and basically the students just stare at the screen and stop engaging at all with what you're saying. (However, powerpoint fans may come on here and disagree with me on this one. I am not a technophobe, but I am foolish/egotistical enough to believe that people come to my lectures to hear me . If I just wanted them to read my notes, I could just make them available on the internet and stay in bed .)

HTH. I am not checking MN very regularly at the moment, but I'll keep an eye on this thread, so ask away if you have any other questions. And GOOD LUCK!

hatwoman Thu 28-Jun-07 10:59:48

Hi Ellbell. thanks for this. I found this which echoes much of what you say and all seems to make a lot of sense. I'm not a fan of power point for exactly the reasons you say - not one of my lecturers last year used it and with the exception of one of them I think it would have been a negative addition (the exception being a droner who would say things like "and the third thing you need to remember..." when none of us had registered the first or second! a power point slide with the structure of his lecture would have been most helpful). I'm glad I'm doing this so soon after having been on the receving end of lectures because I know in my own mind what makes a good lecture - but it's a bit scarey - the good ones who had encyclopaedic knowledge/funny anecdotes/tonnes of enthusiasm. I've got so much work to do!

I hope things are ok with you.

witchandchips Thu 28-Jun-07 11:02:20

wow 3 hours is such a long time. you really do need to plan (but in the same way as you might plan a day with dcs, so allow for discussions etc. to go off in tangents but think of ways to bring it back to the point.

Suggested plan
Present some material and explain a few key concepts. (20-30 mins)
Break class into groups and give them a problem to solve. you go between groups and help (30 mins)
Get rep from each group to present findings
20 mins
BREAK
after break you recap for 10 or so mins and then link findings to other concepts or material (30 mins in total)

Remaining 45 mins you could either have
a) open and unstructured discussion
or
b) role play, get one student to present one side and the another to present the other one




A suggested plan

First you need to think about what you are going to teach them. I guess

bookwormmum Thu 28-Jun-07 11:05:09

I agree with the powerpoint advice - the worst thing in the world is for a lecturer to effectively read out what's written on the screen (you may as well download the notes from the internet then). Use it for bullet points and bring it up after you've discussed a particular point to keep them in suspense as it were and keep em tuned in. I think the longest lectures I had were 2 hours plus an hour of seminar time so you might find it turning into more of a workshop - lecture the first hour or so and then a seminar on last week's work for the remaining time. I'd also go along with a 5-10 minute pit stop after each hour if only to give them a natural break or check for texts .

hatwoman Thu 28-Jun-07 11:09:03

wicthandchips - methinks you did that thing I do so often where I cut and paste and end up with dangling bits at the end of my post! either that or you had two options - a structured planned one and one where I just have a vague think about the subject matter! . In essence the 3 hours could be seen as 2 lectures that just happen to be one after the other. I've done my oeverall structure for the course and some weeks it is pretty much divided into 2. others less so - I think I'll have to vary it, whihc won;t be a bad thing. I like what you;ve put and you have made me realise that I do need to do something that looks like a lesson plan. keep 'em coming...

rosealbie Thu 28-Jun-07 11:12:45

very the pace/type of activities/discussion to cater for different learning styles.

MrsDoolittle Thu 28-Jun-07 11:19:58

You need to think of yourself as a facilitator rather than a lecturer.
Ask yourself how you are going to facilitate learning?

Plenty of group work.

What are you teaching?

Jazzicatz Thu 28-Jun-07 11:21:31

IME try not to over-complicate things. What level are you teaching? Start with basics and build up!!

witchandchips Thu 28-Jun-07 11:54:50

yup hatwoman cut and pasting is what i do best

hatwoman Thu 28-Jun-07 14:02:20

I'm teaching American graduate law students. I had been thinking I might get some work teaching undergrads as a supplement to their core lectures (ie I wouldn;t have to design the course and the reading list) but I've kind of been thrown in at the deep end a bit. which is great! I think I've spent this morning designing an exercise for them to do in groups - modelled on something I've seen done. but it's really dawning on me how much work I've got to do. any opinions on reading lists while I'm at it? I had gone for one compulsory reading going over the basics plus a choice of several others but somebody said to me they prefer lists with less choice - because then most people in teh class have read the same stuff and it makes for better interaction. It's very difficult though - all the really good stuff assumes a basic level of knowledge taht I'm not convonced they'll have.

Anna8888 Thu 28-Jun-07 14:07:33

Very well planned to start out with, all the while being prepared to "let go" if the class "takes off" of its own accord.

Try to be an enabler/facilitator rather than a teacher - try if at all possible (depends on group, level of students) to let them debate and for you to intervene only to get them back on track if they start rambling/have trouble expressing their ideas.

witchandchips Thu 28-Jun-07 14:08:20

IME only a few students do any reading at all, so you can't rely on them understanding any material before the class

hatwoman Thu 28-Jun-07 17:52:20

I'm chuckling away to myself here. just got some more details through from the US university I'm doing this for and I'm down on the schedule as "Professor" Hatwoman.

Ellbell Thu 28-Jun-07 18:36:34

Ooh, you must change your MN name!

Hard to know what to advise re. reading list, as it's quite subject-specific. I think it helps to be quite specific in what you tell them to read (i.e. a particular chapter or article or selection of pages), and I think I'd go with your idea of having some essential reading for each class and then other items listed for 'back-up' (which they probably won't read - though US grad students should be quite motivated... unlike UK undergrads!).

(I'm OK, btw... just a bit overwhelmed with RAE stress.)

bookwormmum Thu 28-Jun-07 21:55:38

Surely grad students realise that they must read something if it's only the booklist (not the actual books on it - just the list of books ) before they go to the lectures or whatever? .

My old uni split the book list into essential, desirable and optional - and it would have been impossible to have tracked down everything on the list, let alone have read it each week. A mix of essential and desirable was usually good enough to get a handle on the subject. This was undergrad level though - postgrad is probably different .

Jazzicatz Fri 29-Jun-07 08:28:49

My students never read what is on the list - well that is a lie, some do, but the majority do not. Start with the premise that they have not read anything and you are starting pretty much from scratch. The students like one book to work from so try and follow one, which is accessible for them and work the lectures around that. They moan if they are expected to pay out for more than one book!!!!

liquoriceallsorts Fri 29-Jun-07 08:45:25

Its worth giving them something to read and then discuss in such a long session. With a subject like law its not hard to grab something out of the daily papers to see the topic in context. Then you can come up with a list of questions based around the article. This could follow your first hour of 'lecturing'. Powerpoint can be fantastic but most people just use it like an overhead projector and then yes its absolutely boring. If you have the IT skills to insert video clips, colour photos, moving images, etc it can really enhance what you have to say. Personally I am against too much 'group work' as I don't think it achieves alot. They tend to chat about other things. Eons ago in PGCE land in Wales my tutors said that group work wasn't teaching and was just a waste of space! I wouldn't go that far but I do think it has to be very well planned and it has to have some sort of outcome above "go away and discuss in groups and feedback" as I can't see what learning has taken place in that scenario. I hope this helps and isn't too opinionated!

Judy1234 Fri 29-Jun-07 08:51:47

I suppose you need to find out from whoever arranged it what they want. I sometimes do this but what they want varies - some people want three one hour written papers with notes and references to take away and study after. Others are happy with shorter notes. I did a 7 hours earlier this week. Three hours normally would have one break in it half way through. Getting them to do an exercise in groups so they talk to each other can help too but not if that breaks the rules or instructions of what you're supposed to be doing. So sometimes in advance I'd say I could do an exercise and the organisers will either say great or we don't want that.

Some people talk a lot in the group - it was great and easy this week because of the people and sometimes no one say a word which is really really hard. So if you can think of some questions to ask them and get them talking that helps too.

hatwoman Fri 29-Jun-07 09:51:13

yes liquorice - you're right about the papers - especially in my particular line. I'm thinking of copying a lecturer of mine and making a 5-10 minute discussion of the week's news a regular slot at the beginning of the lecture. he used to ask one student to keep an eye on the news - including relevant websites etc and come to the lecture prepared to give a summary of what was relevant, interesting and why - either of one particular bit of news or several.

Interesting what jazzicatz says about books though. I had one lecturer who had two "text" books and every week's reading was a chapter from each. In one case it wasn;t quite so bad because it was an edited book - so a collection of different writers and slightly different perspectives but the other one was dire. I used to take it to bed with me instead of sleeping tablets. it was awful. I much prefer journal articles that have an argument and something interesting to say, rather than books that drone on giving you the basics. I do think though that one problem I'll have is how to cover the basics - the things you need in order to intelligently discuss the interesting issues. And xenia - you are very right I need to discuss more with the course organisers - they have said they take a very hands-off approach and I have total academic freedom and they're very happy with a range of techniques - in fact I think the ideas I had on that score were what got me the work. iirc xenia you're in a similar siutation to me - you're a practictioner doing lecturing rather than an academic? how have you found it?

Judy1234 Fri 29-Jun-07 10:50:05

Fine. I've done it since about 1991 I think. I try to ensure there is virtually no preparation and only do it if I get paid a lot for the day. But it's certainly the most stressful bit of my work.

By daughter at law school has had some very very well prepared notes and materials all consistently put together and lectures on CD, very high quality talks, notes.

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