Renner is pretty progressive – I was a little surprised that he’s ok with lectures existing. He says that lectures can be valuable when they’re purely giving information, outlining the subject, aiming to get people interested, or modeling how to handle a lot of information. Average attention span for a lecture listener is between 12 and 20 minutes – good to know. Also, he cited research that said laughter and a really engaging presentation style boost retention of content. He also suggested using ten-minute lecturettes (and a kitchen timer) and switching to other activities in between.
I seem to have a thing for simple and concrete tips. His tips for improving lecturing were mostly obvious, but to me the most helpful points were to minimize the disruption of distributing handouts, periodically pause, and to think carefully about your sequencing. To get everyone’s attention, change tempo, move around, or use silence.
He also suggested making “fill in the blanks” pages for learners to guide them and reinforce your lecture. I actually find this to be pretty insulting and would never have considered using it. I also would have questioned its effectiveness – it seems very much more passive than constructing one’s own notes. But I guess not everyone has the ability to take good notes. Maybe some adult learners, particularly people who haven’t attended college yet, would benefit from such prompting after all. I’ll think on it.
My Overall Impressions:
I liked the immediate focus on appropriate (and inappropriate) uses of the lecture. Maybe it wasn’t profound insight, but it was useful.
It was interesting to read a piece about delivering a lecture that doesn’t mention computers or Power Point. Focusing on the fundamentals (i.e. use pauses) was refreshing – sometimes we can get a little too focused on the technology. That being said, the habits of participants are changing. Here’s an article about presenting to people who are twittering.