Lecturing creatively

Old school lecturing is getting a bad rap in higher education these days. Many are wondering about the benefits of the traditional model where students sit in a classroom and listen to a professor lecture for 1-3 hours. I was a student myself in the last few years at UBC and was amazed that very little had changed in terms of delivery of instruction since the last time that I was in university 20 years prior.

The age of student-centered learning  does not mean that we should do away with lecturing all together. In truth, if we take a creative approach to lecturing, it can be a very effective teaching method. And in many instances, the logistics of class size are such that lecturing is the only available option.

In “The Skillful Teacher”, Stephen Brookfield describes how to lecture creatively:

  • Be clear about the purpose of the lecture
  • Break up the lecture in 12-15 minute chunks of time, interspersed with activities engaging the students, such as visuals, clickers, silence, discussion groups…
  • Make use of the physical space, move around the room, even setting up mini-stations to explain different concepts
  • Plan and prepare every lecture

The “Learning and Teaching Office” of Ryerson University has published a handout to help instructors design more engaging lectures. There are many good suggestions and I think that I will look into the following:

  • The use of Twitter for the classroom: The instructor creates a Twitter handle for the class and uses it to post references, pose questions and engage the class. The students can also use it to ask questions and post material that they find relevant to the class. Studies have shown that classes that use Twitter had a greater level of student engagement and higher grade point averages.


We have learned about many of these techniques in the PIDP program. The problem is that it is often time consuming to plan creative lectures. I believe that it is necessary to take the time to do so. As instructors, it is our responsibility to facilitate learning and creative lectures are one of the tools that we have to help us do that.


Brookfield, S. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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