The Classroom Lecture

As learners we have all sat through our share of lectures. Some exciting, stimulating and engaging and other lectures well…

Why lecture? Stephen Brookfield, in his book ‘The Skillful Teacher’ gives us 5 reasons:

  1. To establish the broad outline of a body of material.
  2. To explain, with frequent examples, concepts that learners struggle to understand.
  3. To introduce alternative perspectives and interpretations
  4. To model intellectual and behaviors you wish to encourage in students.
  5. To encourage learner’s interest in a topic.(Brookfield, 2015, p. 71-72)

How an instructor delivers the lecture makes all the difference. I remember taking 2 units of Canadian History in college. The topic was not one of my passions but it would give me those extra credits that universities throw into the BA requirements. This particular history teacher, and I will never forget him, was the best at lectures! I looked forward to listening to him every class. How to describe my feelings listening to him? Well he made Canadian history come alive. It was so exciting, I felt like I strapped into a seat on jet plane  and ‘whoosh’ off we went down the runway building up speed until… until… and then the class ended for the day. I just had to go home and read to finish the adventure! Every class was the same. He was amazing!

Brookfield gives us some very key pointers for helpful lectures:

  • Use a variety of teaching and communication processes.
  • Be organized
  • Use deliberate silence
  • Use questions to promote smaller group discussion throughout (‘buzz groups’ p. 74 of Brookfield)
  • Chunk information into smaller 10-15 minute segments
  • Use classroom response systems like clickers or  social media response systems like Twitter
  • Provide scaffolding notes with the lecture outline
  • Use clear verbal signals to key in on important details
  • Start and end lectures with questions
  • Introduce alternate perspectives
  • Bring assumptions into awareness

(Brookfield, 2015)

As learners we may have thought lectures were teachers talking to much. We may have dreaded them or looked forward to them. Lectures don’t just happen. They are a skill that needs to be learned and then continually improved. Practice doesn’t make perfect but continually reflection on our lecturing style and effectiveness will help.

What are your experiences of classroom lectures? Do you have a memorable favourite? What made them more interesting and impactful? The answer to those questions offers valuable insight to what we offer our learners.

I hope to work on these skills. Lecture has its place in skillful teaching.

Thanks for reading my learning from Brookfield on lectures!



Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. Hoboken, NJ, United States: John Wiley & Sons.


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