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Lecturing to Undergraduates Effectively

Lecturing to undergraduates presents many challenges to any seasoned academic, industrial presenter or teacher. Whilst all of the undergraduates in your class will have achieved a particular standard of education to have earned a university place, their individual abilities for particular subjects can be quite varied. Many subjects at university bring together a number of skills that the students will have learned at secondary school. However, the art of lecturing is demonstrating successfully how the skills they have learned can be applied.

I recently wrote a similar article on Delivering a Lecture/Presentation. In the article I discussed the importance of knowing your audience. Delivering a lecture or presentation to an audience with no knowledge or an audience with a good technical knowledge of the particular field is often more straight forward. When lecturing to undergraduates, you need to find a balance between teaching them fundamental concepts, by using simple terms as well as the technical descriptions.

The biggest difficulty with undergraduate students is determining at what level their current abilities reside. The second challenge is often dealing with students who are generally more interested in socialising at the back of the lecture room.

To work around these problems, it is advised that you have good interaction with the students. it is important to maintain a hierarchy of you being the lecturer, and the students being students. However, you must at all times be approachable by the students. To successfully lecture, the students must feel confident in asking questions, regardless of how silly they may seem.

This interaction with the students will help you gauge their level of understanding. You are probably asking how? Well the idea of a good working relationship with students, that I implement in lecturing, is to encourage the students to ask questions throughout the class. This way I can lecture the material in a manner I feel in myself is sufficient. This will include basic approaches, discussing the technical terms along the way. From the start of any lectures, I tell the students,

ask any questions, regardless of how silly they are

By engaging the students, they will listen to what you say. The questions will allow you to answer your students to ensure they know what they are learning. Simultaneously, you will be honing your lecturing skills so you can judge whether or not you are teaching the material at too high a level.

Coping with disruptive students can often be a challenge. However, with good interaction with your students, you will find that those wanting to learn will police their peers. If needs be, you can also pick the individual students out to answer particular questions. More often than not, their peers will jeer and have a laugh at their expense. The aim is not to victimise – it is important to remember that – but rather it is easier to deal with disruption by using the students to help you out. More often than not, you will find the disruptive students paying more attention in future.

For the most disruptive students, the best approach is to speak with them individually. It is important they know they are being not only disruptive to themselves, but also to their peers who want to learn.