Teaching Seminar

Prepping a Lecture / Resources for the Instructor

OK, we have talked about choosing a text, determining a basic course schedule, and writing a syllabus. All of this happens before you worry about an actual lecture. Before you hit the classroom, of course, you will want to prep your lecture. Here are some pointers on where to begin and some resources that will help you prepare your classroom presentation.

  • A good first step is to (finally) read the chapter. This will let you know what the students will be exposed to when they read.

  • I would then recommend outlining the chapter. Even if you don't follow the chapter exactly (or at all), this will reinforce the material. If you do follow the chapter during your lecture, this will give you a good start on your lecture notes.

  • The above steps should also highlight areas in the chapter that you may want to spend extra time explaining to the students, or areas that you will not cover in lecture. (Unless you really cut back on the number of chapters that you cover, then you probably won' t have time to explain everything covered in the book in great detail. )

  • Now, to make lecture interesting.... present things slightly differently than the book does so that students benefit from attending lecture. (That doesn' t means changing the facts! [ha ha] just the way the facts are presented / explained.) The following are possible ways to add to your lecture:

    1. Think of new "stories" or examples to illustrate a concept that you will introduce. You may get these from your own personal experience, the news, or simply make them up (e.g. when introducing the terms independent and dependent variable when talking about experiments: think of several before class, so they come out smoothly during lecture; try a variety of experimental areas so that you'll reach the interest of more students).
    2. Read relevant chapters from other texts - they may give you alternate examples or ways of explaining a concept. They may also introduce some related material that isn't covered in your text. (I include 15-40% "lecture-only" material in my coverage of text material -- depends upon the topic; the students are told this on the syllabus and know they will be tested over it as well as the text.)
    3. Many texts (especially general psychology books) also produce an instructor's manual. The usefulness of the manual varies across texts -- some merely give you a chapter outline (which you can do on your own -- and you'll remember it better if you suffer through the work yourself), but some give ideas for classroom activities, additional relevant information, etc. You might try finding instructor's manuals from texts in addition to your own in order to get more ideas.
    4. Another source of information is your colleagues / others teaching the course. See what they do and if they have any suggestions (or advice on things not to try -- I've tried a couple of class demonstrations that failed miserably...)
    5. Use transparencies when appropriate (pretty open ended, huh?). My opinion is as follows. Transparencies can be useful for several reasons. Using transparencies can cut down on the monotony of a lecture. They can present the material in another way, so a few more students will catch on (maybe those who learn better visually than by listening). Even for those who already understand the point, the transparency can reinforce the point. Also, transparencies can be a crutch for you (sneaky...) -- they may summarize steps so that you have a cue when you're explaining them. One thing to keep in mind: most of the transparencies that you get with a text contain identical figures from the text (boring for the students!). Try to choose those that are not completely redundant with the text -- maybe try to get a set from another text. Also avoid transparencies with too much writing. Students often feel compelled to copy them verbatim, so you'll loose time waiting for them (and they' re upset if you don't let them finish). Finally - transparencies are prettier than chalkboard drawings (usually) and they may be more accurate than you could possible hope to reproduce yourself (my personal experience anyway...).
    6. Use film clips -- these may help make what you lecture about seem more "real", and they also can help break the monotony of a lecture. Most general psychology texts also come with a video tape that contains film clips. These are labeled and then can be used with the relevant chapters. I'm usually pretty picky about the ones I use, since many times the clips are interesting, but get pretty detailed and tangential to what's covered in the text.
    7. Use films -- our department has a large selection over many areas in psychology. I'm even pickier here. Films (full lecture length) get much more tangential to the text. Many of the films we have are also pretty dated, and they are obviously "educational films" (i.e. pretty stilted and boring). I definitely stress that you should preview several of the potentially relevant films and choose from there (they have general titles, but that isn't much to go on). I see many first time instructors use films when there was "no time to prep a lecture". That usually means there was no time to preview the films either -- could mean you'll lose some students because they don't find class stimulating.... (and you usually have to sit through it too -- boring!).
    8. Many texts now come with demonstrations on disc or CD-ROM. If the room has the capabilities, these can illustrate a point you may not be able to otherwise.
    9. More external resources such as (you'll never guess....) information on the internet are proving to be increasingly useful.

    Resources for the Students

    There are also resources for students that you can make available to your class.

  • Study Guides printed by the publisher can be good aides. I usually recommend these when they' re available. I don' t require them because some students will never use them (I don' t give assignments from them -- all work is self-motivated), and that would be a waste of money. For those students who purchase the study guides, I advise that they use them as a test of their knowledge after studying (ie. don' t fill out the questions with their book and notes handy). If they study and then try to answer the questions from memory, they' ll get a good indication of what they really know.

  • Your text may come with a book of practice tests for the student (the Lefton book just did this with the new edition). I advise that they also take the test with their book and notes out of sight. Further, I advise them to be familiar with all terms in the question (including the alternate answers). Since I only got a couple copies of the practice test book, I put copies on reserve in the library for them to share when I teach this course.

  • Create your own practice tests. I do this and put them on my web page. This has several advantages that I immediately see. First, it reduces class-time spent on review (few students seem to benefit much from reviews in class). But, many (enough to be annoying) students complain if you don' t give a review, so now you hear less complaining. This format also encourages more students to become familiar with the internet. (I have recieved very positive feedback from my classes where I do this.)

  • Increasingly, texts are coming out with discs or CD-ROMs (mentioned above). These can be used as a student resources -- we have a couple available for check-out in our computer lab. The new edition of the Lefton book has a great interactive CD-ROM for the students.

  • For some classes, you may want to put additional resources on reserve for the interested students.

  • You may mention related books or references in class that an interested student can look up on his/her own time (or maybe get a copy of the article from you later).

  • The library (ARC) has tutors available for students needing extra help.

  • If you' re so motivated, you can set up your own review session before exams.