Good lecturers do two things very well:
First, they create a positive environment that enables students to enjoy learning.
Second, in the learning process, they assist and enable students to achieve their goals.
But it’s not that simple. There are a number of key skills and qualities required in this role.
So, what are some characteristics and techniques that make a good lecturer?
Tailor Your Teaching to Individual Student Needs
In their online guide on Enhancing Learning and Teaching, The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) states that the core task of a good lecturer is to make learning possible (2012).
They highlight the importance of creating a positive learning environment within which students are encouraged to think, grow and confront their individual difficulties (2012).
It is critical that lecturers and other educators acknowledge that one size does not fit all, and that each learner will have different difficulties or limitations and different learning needs.
While differentiated instruction may present more challenges for lecturers, the content of our lessons as well as our teaching method should be tailored to the needs of the individual learners as much as possible.
It then becomes important to continuously evaluate and reflect upon your teaching method and assess your learners’ comprehension of the content (UTS, 2012).
Engaging Presentation and Teaching Style
As part of BBC Active Video for Learning, the BBC included a resource for new lecturers (2010). A key theme that emerged from this resource was the importance of engaging learners from the start of the lesson.
This can be achieved in a number of ways, including:
- Engage learners from the beginning by clearly explaining the objectives and learning outcomes of the lesson or lecture;
- Spark learners’ curiosity by including interesting facts or questions throughout the lecture;
- Continually check-in to ensure your learners are engaged – visual aids, such as video, can help to retain or recapture attention; and
- Give learners positive feedback when they are most engaged and actively participating.
Whether or not learners ask questions during the lecture, or even when prompted, is a great measure of engagement and interest in the content.
It’s also important to note that presentation style is something that good lecturers continuously work to refine. A great way to understand what you most need to improve on is to ask learners for feedback. Lecturers should do this periodically to ensure continuous improvement.
Encourage Active Communication
In the Flinders University Handbook on Teaching Quality, active communication between lecturers and learners is noted as a key element of good teaching practice (2016).
Communication can take place in a number of different ways. However, lecturers should aim to facilitate the following instances of communication:
- Interaction between learners, not just between learner and lecturer;
- A clear outline of lesson expectations and goals at the beginning;
- Clearly communicating timing expectations for individual tasks.
From this brief overview of three key characteristics and techniques of good lecturers, we can see that effective, constant communication between learners and lecturer is essential.
However, it is clear that there are a number of skills needed to become a good lecturer, and these skills need constant refining.
Here are several TED Talks which talk about how to take your teaching to the next level and ensure you can get the most out of your learners:
Presentation Tips for Teachers (Never Give a Boring Lecture Again!) | Garr Reynolds.
How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint | David JP Phillips
The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything | Josh Kaufman
Transition to Practice: Supporting Graduate Nurses