Tips for New Lecturers

At the small and well formed place where I work several new members of staff will be starting this year.  I thought a few notes on top tips when you start lecturing might be a good idea.  The following is my personal view of course and does not reflect the views of my employer.

When I was offered my permanent position, my boss at the time congratulated me on my new position and gave me two pieces of advice: Firstly: do not be afraid to share your passion for your subject!  Secondly: do not be surprised if no-one in the audience shares your enthusiasm.  This is something which I’ve tried to stick to, though my enthusiasm for finite differencing schemes is somewhat limited…..

In no particular order some other tips:

  • Do not over prepare.  After the first few lectures your style will change so avoid trying to have the whole course ready from the start.
  • When preparing remember that learning is all about getting the students to do things, so use some sort of active learning.  Richard Felder has some excellent web pages about how to do this.
  • Students are really only interested in what is in the exam.  This is in some ways a bit shallow but I have a lot of sympathy with this viewpoint – if what you are trying to get them to do is not rewarded by marks then there is something wrong with your course!  So make sure that what you want them to do and what you assess are the same thing.
  • Be a bit of a bastard!  When I started out we were on an educational journey together and when people talked I would meekly ask them if they could possibly pay attention.  Chatting during the lecture did actually disrupt the learning and it would be better for all of us if they could save their conversation till later –  if it wasn’t too much trouble for them that is.  I’m now much more robust with them and this works a lot better, though I am astonished about how many of my colleagues put up with background chatter.
  • Always welcome contributions from students.  It is much better to have some contributions (even if they are wrong) than have no-one engaging with your lecture.
  • Use technology but remember the key thing is to get students doing things.  So whilst it is nice to have colour pictures, or films in your lecture – getting students to actually do the problem sheets is much more useful.
  • Watch other staff lecture and copy elements of their style that you think will work.  You can also read general advice on-line, though bear in mind that this all gets a bit generic as it has to cover a huge range of subjects.  It is much better to watch the good lecturers at your University in your subject.

I’ll try and do another post in the future about how I suggest that you ensure that people pay attention and some ideas of encouraging interaction.


3 thoughts on “Tips for New Lecturers

  1. Alex Liberzon

    completely agree, except the exam thing – we should encourage them learning for the future utilization of knowledge rather than passing the exam. i still look for the way to convince them that it’s much more efficient way of studying.

    1. grantingram Post author

      Alex – thanks very much for your comment.

      I actually agree with you about avoiding short term thinking in learning. My point is that if we want students to learn for the future utilisation of knowledge we need to set an exam that tests this!

      It is however much easier to set exam questions that reward rote learning or simple calculations and that is a trap I have found difficult to avoid.

  2. Sam Mitchell

    As a student I would say the most important thing a lecturer can do is ask the students questions. Even if I am in a lecture about a topic I am particularly fond of and the lecturer just talks (however enthusiastic he or she may be) to the class I start to nod off!! if however, the lecturer starts asking questions (whether the speaker be boring or the topic be boring) then my attention is captured and my brain turns on!


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