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Delivering A Lecture Essay, Research Paper
Delivering a Lecture
Lecturing is not simply a matter of standing in front of a class and reciting what you know The classroom lecture is a special form of communication in which voice, gesture, movement, facial expression, and eye contact can either complement or detract from the content. No matter what your topic, your delivery and manner of speaking immeasurably influence your students’ attentiveness and learning. Use the following suggestions, based on teaching practices of faculty and on research studies in speech communication, to help you capture and hold students’ interest and increase their retention.
Watch yourself on videotape. Often we must actually see our good behaviors in order to exploit them and see our undesirable behaviors in order to correct them. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, viewing a videotape of yourself can be an invaluable way to do so. See “Watching Yourself on Videotape.”
Learn how not to read your lectures. At its best, lecturing resembles a natural, spontaneous conversation between instructor and student, with each student feeling as though the instructor is speaking to an audience of one. If you read your lectures, however, there will be no dialogue and the lecture will seem formal, stilted, and distant. Even if you are a dynamic reader, when you stick to a script you forfeit the expressiveness, animation, and give-and-take spontaneity of plain talking. Reading from notes also reduces your opportunities to engage your class in conversation and prevents you from maintaining eye contact. On this point all skilled speakers agree: don’t read your presentation. See “Preparing to Teach the Large Lecture Course” for advice on preparing lecture notes.
Prepare yourself emotionally for class. Some faculty play rousing music before lecturing. Others set aside fifteen or thirty minutes of solitude to review their notes. Still others walk through an empty classroom gathering their thoughts. Try to identify for yourself an activity that gives you the energy and focus you need to speak enthusiastically and confidently. (Source: Lowman, 1984)
Opening a Lecture
Avoid a “cold start.” Go to class a little early and talk informally with students. Or walk in the door with students and engage them in conversation. Using your voice informally before you begin to lecture helps keep your tone conversational.
Minimize nervousness. A certain amount of nervousness is normal, especially right before you begin to speak. To relax yourself, take deep breaths before you begin or tighten and then release the muscles of your body from your toes to your jaw Once you are under way your nervousness will lessen.
Grab students’ attention with your opening. Open with a provocative question, startling statement, unusual analogy, striking example, personal anecdote, dramatic contrast, powerful quote, short questionnaire, demonstration, or mention of a recent news event. Here are some sample openings:
? “How many people would you guess are sent to prison each week in the state of California? Raise your hand if you think 50 people or fewer. How about 51 to 100? 101 to 150? Over 150? (Pause) In fact, over 250 people are placed in custody every week.” (sociology lecture)
? “Freddie has been with the company for nearly four years and is considered a good worker. Recently, though, he?s been having problems. He’s late for work, acts brusque, and seems sullen. One morning he walks into the office, knocks over a pile of paper, and leaves it lying on the floor. His supervisor says, ‘Freddie, could you please pick up the material so that no one trips over it?’ Freddie says loudly, ‘Pick it up yourself.’ If you were the supervisor, what would you do next?” (business lecture)
? “The number-one fear of Americans – more terrifying than the fear of death – is public speaking.” (rhetoric lecture)
? An economist shows a slide of farmers dumping milk from trucks or burning cornfields and asks, “Why would people do this?” (economics lecture)
? “Watch what happens to this balloon when the air is released.” (physics lecture)
? “Take two minutes to complete the ten true-false items on the questionnaire that I’m distributing. We’ll use your answers as part of today’s lecture.” (psychology lecture)
? “How many of you believe that high-rise housing means high-density housing?” (architecture lecture)
? “Nearly three-quarters of all assaults, two-thirds of all suicide attempts, half of all suicides, and half of all rapes are committed by people under the influence of what drug? How many think crack? Heroin? Marijuana? None of the above? The correct answer is alcohol.” (social welfare lecture)
Vary your opening. Any dramatic technique loses impact upon repetition.
Announce the objectives for the class. Tell your students what you expect to accomplish during the class, or list your objectives on the board. Place the day’s lecture in context by linking it to material from earlier sessions.
Establish rapport with your students. Warmth and rapport have a positive effect on any audience. Students will feel more engaged in the class if the opening minutes are personal, direct, and conversational. (Source: Knapper, 1981)
Capturing Students’ Interest
During class, think about and watch your audience-your students. Focus on your students as if you were talking to a small group. One-on-one eye contact will increase students’ attentiveness and help you observe their facial expressions and physical movements for signs that you are speaking too slowly or too quickly, or need to provide another example. A common mistake lecturers make is to become so absorbed in the material that they fail to notice whether students are paying attention.
Vary your delivery to keep students’ attention. Keeping students’ attention is among the most important facets 6f helping them learn (Penner, 1984). Studies show that most people’s attention lapses after ten minutes of passive listening (Wolvin, 1983). To extend students’ attention spans, do the following:
? Ask questions at strategic points or ask for comments or opinions about the subject.
? Play devil’s advocate or invite students to challenge your point of view
? Have students solve a problem individually, or have them break into pairs or small four-person groups to answer a question or discuss a topic.
? Introduce visual aids: slides, charts, graphs, videotapes, and films.
Make the organization of your lecture explicit. Put an outline on the board before you begin, outline the development of ideas as they occur, or give students a handout of your major points or topics. Outlines help students focus on the progression of the material and also help them take better notes. If their attention does wander, students can more readily catch up with the lecture if they have an outline in front of them.
Convey your own enthusiasm for the material. Think back to what inspired you as an undergraduate or to the reasons you entered the field you are in. Even if you have little interest in a particular topic, try to come up with a new way of looking at it and do what you can to stimulate students’ enthusiasm. If you appear bored with the topic, students will quickly lose interest.
Be conversational. Use conversational inflections and tones, varying your pitch just as you do in ordinary conversation. If you focus on the meaning of what you are saying, you’ll instinctively become more expressive. Choose informal language, and try to be natural and direct.
Use concrete, simple, colorful language. Use first-person and second-person pronouns (I, we, you). Choose dramatic adjectives, for example, “vital point” rather than “main point” or “provocative issue” rather than “next issue.” Eliminate jargon, empty words, and unnecessary qualifiers (”little bit,” “sort of,” “kind of”). (Source: Bernhardt, 1989)
Incorporate anecdotes and stories into your lecture. When you are in a storytelling mode, your voice becomes conversational and your face more expressive, and students tend to listen more closely. Use anecdotes to illustrate your key points.
Don’t talk into your notes. If you are not using a lectern and you need to refer to your note cards, raise the cards (rather than lower your head) and take a quick glance downward, keeping your head steady This movement will be easier if your notes are brief and in large letters. (Source: Bernhardt, 1989)
Maintain eye contact with the class. Look directly at your students one at a time to give them a sense that you are speaking to each individual. Look at a student for three to five seconds – a longer glance will make most students uncomfortable. Beware of aimless scanning or swinging your head back and forth. Mentally divide the lecture hall into three to five sections, and address comments, questions, and eye contact to each section during the course of your lecture, beginning in the center rear of the room. Pick out friendly faces, but also try to include nonlisteners. However, don’t waste your time trying to win over the uninterested; concentrate on the attentive. If real eye contact upsets your concentration, look between two students or look at foreheads. (Source: Bernhardt, 1989)
Use movements to hold Students’ attention. A moving object is more compelling than a static one. Occasionally, move about the room. Use deliberate, purposeful, sustained gestures: hold up an object, roll up your sleeves. To invite students’ questions, adopt an open, casual stance. Beware of nervous foot shifting, however, and aimless, distracting gestures.
Use movements to emphasize an important point or to lead into a new topic. Some faculty move to one side of the table or the lectern when presenting one side of an argument and to the other side when presenting the opposing view This movement not only captures students’ attention but reinforces the Opposition between the two points of view (Harris, 1977). Other faculty indicate tangential points by standing off to the side of the room (Weimer, 1988).
Use facial expressions to convey emotions. If you appear enthusiastic and eager to tell students what you know they are more likely to be enthusiastic about hearing it. Use your facial features: eyes, eyebrows, forehead, mouth, and jaw to convey enthusiasm, conviction, curiosity, and thoughtfulness. (Source: Lowman, 1984)
Laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. If you mispronounce a word or drop your notes, your ability to see the humor of the situation will put everyone at ease. Don’t let your confidence be shaken by minor mistakes.
Keep track of time. How long is it taking you to cover each point? Where should you be in the material halfway through the class period? If you seem to be running out of time, what will you leave out? If time runs short, do not speed up to cover everything in your notes. Have some advance plan of what to omit: If I don’t have fifteen minutes left when I reach this heading, I’ll give only one example and distribute a handout with the other examples.
Mastering Delivery Techniques
Vary the pace at which you speak. Students need time to assimilate new information and to take notes, but if you speak too slowly, they may become bored. Try to vary the pace to suit your own style, your message, and your audience. For example, deliver important points more deliberately than anecdotal examples. If you tend to speak quickly, try to repeat your major points so that students can absorb them.
Project your voice or use a microphone. Ask students whether they can hear you, or have a graduate student instructor sit in the back corner to monitor the clarity and volume of your speaking voice. Try not to let the volume of your voice drop at the ends of sentences. When using a microphone, speak in a normal voice and do not lean into the microphone.
Vary your voice. Consider the pitch, volume, duration of words, intonation, and the intensity of your voice. Experiment with vocal techniques by reading aloud. Lowman (1984, chap. 4) describes a series of voice exercises to improve projection, articulation, and tonal quality
Pause. The pause is one of the most critical tools of public speaking. It is an important device for gaining attention. Pauses can be used as punctuation -to mark a thought, sentence, or paragraph – and also for emphasis, before or after a key concept or idea. If you suddenly stop in midsentence, students will look up from their notes to see what happened. Planned pauses also give you and your audience a short rest. Some faculty take a sip of coffee or water after they say something they want students to stop and think about. Other faculty deliberately pause, announce, “This is the really imp9rtant consideration,” and pause again before proceeding.
Watch out for vocalized pauses. Try to avoid saying “um,” “well,” “you know,” “OK,” or “so.” Silent pauses are more effective.
Adopt a natural speaking stance. Balance yourself on both feet with your toes and heels on the ground. Beware of shifting movements or unconscious rocking to and from. Keep your knees slightly relaxed. Shoulders should be down and loose, with elbows cocked, and your hands at waist level. If you use a lectern, don’t grip the sides, elbows rigid; instead, keep your elbows bent and lightly rest your hands on the lectern, ready for purposeful gestures. (Source: Bernhardt, 1989)
Breathe normally. Normal breathing prevents vocal strain that affects the pitch and quality of your speech. Keep your shoulders relaxed, your neck loose, your eyes fully open, and your jaw relaxed.
Closing a Lecture
Draw some conclusion for the class. Help students see that a purpose has been served, that something has been gained during the last hour. A well-planned conclusion rounds out the presentation, ties up loose ends, suggests ways for students to follow up on the lecture, and gives students a sense of closure.
Finish forcefully. Don’t allow your lecture to trail off or end in midsentence because the period is over, and avoid the last-minute “Oh, I almost forgot.. .” An impressive ending will echo in students’ minds and prompt them to prepare for the next meeting. End with a thought-provoking question or problem; a quotation that sets an essential theme; a summation of the major issue as students now understand it, having had the benefit’ of the lecture just delivered; or a preview of coming attractions. For example, a physics professor ended a lecture by asking a volunteer to come up to the front, stand with his back to the wall, and try to touch his toes. She challenged the class to think about why the volunteer was not successful in this task. The topic of the next lecture, center of gravity, was thus introduced in a vivid, memorable way Don’t worry if you finish a few minutes early; explain that you have reached a natural stopping point. But don’t make it a habit.
End your lecture with the volume up. Make your voice strong, lift your chin up, keep your eyes facing the audience. Be sure to stay after class for a few minutes to answer students’ questions.
Improving Your Lecture Style
Make notes to yourself immediately after each lecture. Consider the timing, the effectiveness of your examples, the clarity of your explanations, and the like. Jot down questions students asked or any comments they made. These notes will help you be more effective the next time you give that lecture.
Use a cassette recorder. Record a practice session or an actual lecture. Listen to your pacing, inflection, tone emphasis, and use of pauses. Is your tone conversational? Are the transitions clear? Are the vocalized pauses (”um,” “well,” “you know”) at a minimum? Lowman (1984) describes the following procedure for comparing your conversational style and your lecturing style. Ask a friend to meet you in a moderate-sized room. Sit down, start the recorder, and begin a conversation by stating your name, age, and birthplace. Then talk for four or five minutes about a favorite book, movie, restaurant, exhibit, or hobby. Have your friend ask you some questions. Now move to a classroom, stand up, and give a short lecture (five to eight minutes) to your friend. Several days later listen to the recordings.
? Listen first straight through, without stopping the tape or taking notes. What is your overall impression of the voice you are hearing?
? Replay the recording of the conversation, and jot down words that best describe your voice.
? Replay the conversation again, this time focusing on the use of extraneous words, the level of relaxation and fluency in the voice, patterns of breathing, pitch and pace, emphasis and articulation.
? The next day replay the recording of the lecture and make a set of notes on it.
? Review your notes to identify the differences between the two recorded segments. Consider style, use of language, pacing, volume, fluency, expressiveness, and soon. Any differences you note will help you decide how to improve
Use a video recorder. When reviewing a videotape of yourself lecturing, you can watch the entire tape, watch the tape with the sound turned off, or listen to the tape without watching it. Adopt the procedures outlined above for reviewing and analyzing your videotape. Most of the time you will be pleasantly surprised: you may have felt nervous during the lecture, but the videotape will show you that your nervousness was not apparent to your class. Seeing yourself on tape can be a good confidence builder. See “Watching Yourself on Videotape.”
Work with a speech consultant. Speech consultants can help you develop effective delivery skills. Ask your campus faculty development office for names of consultants or a schedule of workshops on lecturing.