This was the statement made by a friend of mine who was invited to deliver her first lecture on an important but sensitive lecture topic. This feeling is not uncommon amongst early career academics. Unlike professionals developing their careers in primary and secondary school teaching who tend to be more prepared having gone through teacher training, for those going into lecturing in academia, your training comes on the job, usually after you have started teaching! In many cases, after completing a Masters degree or a PhD/postdoc, you could land your first lecture invitation. So what should you keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation? The handy tips below will give you a good starting point.
STEP ONE – Find the guidebook: The first bit of research you’ll need to do if you are about to teach at University, college or school is the curriculum. At University, this will the course/module specification. Here it will be important for you to know what the anticipated learning outcomes are for the students within the year group. What type of assessment(s) have been designed for the course? How does the topic you are about to lecture on connect with the learning outcomes and assessment? Do you have the skills to deliver this material?
The learning outcomes and type of assessment will differ for different year groups and without knowing what these components are, you are in danger of over or under cooking the material.
STEP TWO – Do your research: yes this is important! Before you walk into any class or theatre, ask questions from the course coordinator or module leader. Questions such as; what is the group like? Are they a responsive or quiet group? This is will be useful as it’ll help you decide what style or activities you might employ to engage them and so you also do not think you’re the cause if they just stare without responding…believe me, it’s not all the academics fault 🙂 Also, what type of materials will you need? Would you need a PC? A room with PCs for all the students? Do you want them to vote during the lecture? Do you want them to work in groups? Is the class set up for that?…all these questions are key before you walk into the room.
STEP THREE – Location, location, location: I remember the feedback I once received from a mentor who assessed one of my early teaching sessions (Thank you Ms LL)…around the organisation of the room. I never thought this was that important as I was so engrossed with getting the material right that it never crossed my mind that the room was also important. So before you go teach, find out (a) the number of students on the course (b) does the type of activity you are planning fit with the number of students (c) is the room shaped in the right way to accommodate that?
STEP FOUR – Planning your session: have you written your lecture plan? Not sure what this should be?
The lecture plan should be a guide for you and you can make it as prescriptive as you want (you know best how you work!) – The lecture plan could include any of the following
- The topic or work session
- Aims of the session/ Learning objectives
- Learning outcomes including skills the students should gain from the class
- Type of assessment (formative or summative)
- Teaching process
The lecture plan can help you factor in things like short breaks, Q&A, group work etc. Thus, if you have a good lecture plan, it’ll help you prepare well and for any new lecturers, this would be a good place to start..
STEP FIVE – Don’t go in unprepared: Nothing worse than a lecture delivered by an ill prepared lecturer. This is not just for the students but for the lecturer as well. When I say unprepared, it is not only regarding knowledge of the material, but in some cases, the sensitivity of the topic you are about to discuss. During your preparation, ask your colleagues for previous notes on the said topic to compare with what you plan to deliver. Don’t forget, some students might be repeating the year and have had a chance to learn that topic well or some students might actually have studied before the lecture thus they’d come in very prepared. It is important you give yourself time to review the material before the session.
Also, with many online platforms and open education resources, you never be far from a topic of your interest that can help you prepare. Sites such as Khan Academy, Slideshare, YouTube etc. will help you. If you want to know more about Open education resources (OERs), speak to my friend Dr Viv Rolfe here about where you can find these excellent free resources.
STEP SIX – Be mindful of others: something I learnt over a decade ago working with Access Summit, the UKs largest and leading integrated H.E. based assessment and support provider was how different the make up on your class is.
Every student in your lecture room is different and might have different learning needs and requirements thus, no one size fits all strategy.
Some students might need a notetaker, some other students might be dyslexic and some might just require that you keep them in mind when you choose your fancy colour slides. Like my best buddy who is a scientist but has colour vision deficiency, more commonly known as colour blindness and tells me everything is grey even when I see them as green or yellow etc. (bet he is reading this and thinking of kicking me). Why is this important? If you prepare your slides with green, yellow, red backgrounds and fonts, there might be people in your class staring into oblivion or dreaming of azgard during your lecture….perhaps the blank faces you’ve seen before???
STEP SEVEN – Reflect on the session: at the end of your lecture, write yourself a reflection. If possible get some feedback from some of the students. Usually if a lecture goes very well and the students feel they have gained something from the lecture, they’ll stop by to let you know. Some will stop to ask you questions. Whatever the feedback you get, it is important you include it in your reflection. For your own development, it is important to ask yourself
(a) What went well during the lecture?
(b) What didn’t go so well?
(c) What would you like to improve before your next lecture?
Hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you have any questions about this article, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about how teaching can enhance your career prospects, read more here
About the writer – Emmanuel is an academic, scientist and regular blogger. He has a PhD in Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). He has taught at several higher education institutions in the UK and has a postgraduate certification for teaching in higher education. Emmanuel loves to teach and more importantly, he loves to share. For more about Emmanuel, visit the about us page here.
“I love to teach, it is when I get to learn the most, smile the most and visualise the most….when I teach students is best time I get to see glimpses of what the future could be” Emmanuel Adukwu.
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