Lectures

einstein-lectureslinccollege
Albert Einstein in 1946 lecturing at Lincoln University, the first university in the United States to grant degrees to African-Americans.

Lecture and Direct Instruction

When people think of education they undoubtedly think of lectures and direct instruction first. The images that they conjure in their minds probably look something like the picture above: the instructor (in this case Albert Einstein) presenting information, while students listen. Lectures are just that, an instructional strategy in which teachers present information to their students. But, as Larson and Keiper point out, lectures can be much more diverse than what most people might first think of. Teachers can choose to give their lecture to the entire class or to smaller groups of students, and can choose whether or not their lecture is short or is long. The ultimate value of the lecture lies in the fact that they allow teachers to present information to students quickly and efficiently.

Before lecturing teachers need to think of a few key points:

  1. Planning the Topic Outline: teachers should write a topic outline for the lecture. This will help teachers think about how to present the content and will help them realize what is important for students to remember. If, for instance, Einstein was lecturing about his theory of relativity, his lecture would probably have two major key points: special relativity and general relativity. Then, subsidiary to those key points might be important definitions or terms he would want the students to remember in the lecture- like spacetime or time dilation.
  2. Planning the Lecture: After the outline has been made, Einstein should then create a lesson plan that would include the lecture notes, opportunities for student participation, and questions you want to ask (Larson and Keiper, 118). Part of this will include planning content or skill objectives. For Einstein one objective might be “students will be able to list differences between special relativity and general relativity.” This would be an attainable goal and can be assessed by the instructor.
  3. Student Note-Taking: In the course of his planning, Einstein would want to think about how he wants students to take notes. He could provide his outline to students as a framework with which to take notes or he could create a guided note worksheet. To enhance comprehension he might also want to think about providing students with visual aids and include visual aids within his presentation.
  4. Delivering the Lecture: There are a couple things Einstein will want to plan as part of his lecture. One might be a “hook” to introduce the lecture and to focus students on the content. This could be a question that has real world application or could test student prior knowledge. Teachers should also try to minimize distraction during their lectures to maximize student learning and should pause during lectures to engage with students.
  5. Conclusion: Finally, the conclusion of the lecture should involve of summary of the main points and it should also include some kind of concluding task. This could take the form of an exit card, journal entry, think/pair/share, or a writing recall assignment.

Lectures are useful teaching tools, but remember to: plan properly, make sure the lecture fits the content, organize and focus your lecture, minimize distraction to maximize learning, and provide illustrations or examples.

Observation

School: Richard Nixon High School

Class: 9th Grade World History

Student: Spiro Agnew

Date of Observation: Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My placement school, I’ll use Richard Nixon High School as a pseudonym, is a larger school in western Virginia with over 1,000 students. The school itself is an aging structure that was built either in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The structure is mainly two stories, with most classes occurring on the second story. The class I’m following is a 9th Grade World History Honors class that contains 19 students and meets during 3rd block.  I’m focusing on one student in particular today, I’ll call him Spiro Agnew (or Agnew for short). In the World History class Agnew sits near the front of the class. Agnew was moved to the front of the class at the beginning of the year to remove him from his friend, Gerald.

Before school begins I roam the hallway quickly, monitoring the students. I notice that of the 19 students in the World History class, two different groups are hanging out with each other before school. The first group consists mainly of the guys in class, while the second group consists of mainly the girls in the class. Agnew is standing with the first group, so is Gerald. But both of them are talking more with each other than with the group. Their first block is reserved for electives and most students are spread out throughout the school, so I catch up with them in their second block class, English. They have 5 minutes to get to class, which is plenty of time. But the hallways become crowded quickly and some students enter in frustration. Agnew and Gerald are the last two students in the classroom. They are also the last two to get working on their warm up and the teacher has to prompt both of them to be quiet. During class I notice off task behavior in Agnew at least six different times. All of them involved him looking at his e-mail or other websites with his school provided tablet.

I follow these students to their next class and, yet again, get stuck in major hallway traffic (the school was definitely designed for a smaller student population). Agnew and Gerald are the last two to enter World History and, again, the last two to get on their warm up. Neither of them had further to walk than the rest, but both spent more time in the hallway talking. Today in World History they have a combination of computer based work and paper based work. Both Agnew and Gerald were off task multiple times during computer based work, but when the class transitioned to paper based work and were asked to put away their computers, both students were almost always on task. I think this is true of most other students in class as well.

Lunch follows after this block and I joined another teacher for lunch duty. The same two groups that existed before school sat together during lunch. Interestingly enough, the teacher on lunch duty told me to keep an eye out for one particular group and she pointed to the group of 9th Grade boys. Apparently they are the loudest during lunch.

During their final block class, Geometry, I noticed the same trends in Agnew and Gerald as the first two blocks. So what can I surmise? First, students value friends. Agnew and Gerald come together as a package. They hang out together, talk together, and are usually off task together. Second, these 9th grade students tend to form groups along gendered lines. This could be a carryover from Middle School, but I’ve noticed similar trends in upper level classes. Finally, I noticed a decrease in off task behavior among these students when performing off computer tasks. The only time off task behavior decreased with computer use was when I, or the teacher, was roaming the room.

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