In this post, Angel Garmpi, a Linguistics MA student at the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, reflects on her experience of learning in lectures…
As a student going into the fourth year of my Undergraduate degree in a lecture-heavy programme, I have been able to reflect on what sort of lectures have resonated the most during my time as a student. The two strongest factors seem to be how engaging and how accessible I have found the lectures.
Engaging refers to the delivery of the lecture. I find that I am most engaged in lectures when PowerPoint slides are used as a supporting tool and are not over-relied upon. I always engage more when the lecture is delivered in a narrative format, instead of ticking-off points on a list, or serving as an information download with no clear direction for how it all builds up or relates to the bigger picture.
I have also found that engaging lectures are those that involve students. This is more than just inviting the students to “discuss this point with the person sitting next to you for a minute or so”, and then asking to hear a few opinions before carrying on. What is most fascinating and exciting in a lecture theatre setting is when lecturers truly stimulate dialogue and use it to drive the lecture. Ultimately, the lecturers that I find are the most engaging are those who let their enthusiasm and passion about what they teach show, and those who can make the lecture sound fresh, as if it is being delivered for the very first time.
Some of the most memorable and genuinely fun lectures I have attended were like improvisation pieces: the lecturer would have a plan of what they wanted to cover, but would not use slides, just blackboard and chalk, in fact. He aimed not to just exchange information, but to inspire conversation and dialogue amongst us, as well as between us and him. He did this while presenting each topic like a story, complete with anecdotes and fun facts. This format gave him the freedom to clarify any sticky points as we went along, or focus on what the students showed the most interest in. And after each lecture, he provided a lecture summary specific to what had been discussed and how it had been discussed that day.
If a lecture is accessible, I feel I have come away from it reassured that my learning, both in the lecture and following it, has been thoughtfully planned. Any materials or slides that are used should be accessibly-produced, and the lecturers should speak slowly and clearly. Personally, I like a simple and straightforward lecture structure, with frequent signposting allowing students to easily follow and also make notes if they wish to do so.
It is really effective when students are given the space to revise the key points in the lecture. This does not refer to whether the lecture is recorded; rather, to whether the lecturer provides any comprehensive post-lecture material with which the student can revise and on which they can build their own notes. Sometimes you can piece a lecture together from its slides, but as slides are not meant to be revision guides, this is not always possible, especially on more theory-heavy courses. One of the best strategies I have come across is when lecturers provide brief but comprehensive lecture summaries, which are available after their lectures.
So, what I have found as a student, is that lectures that are designed to be engaging and accessible have really helped my learning journey.