Make Lectures Stick: How Teachers Can Include Processing Time for Improved Learning

Want to transform your lecture-based lessons into valuable processing opportunities?

When we introduce new content to students, we use lectures to impart information to them. The lecture format is still useful in today’s classroom, as long as it gets student thinking and allows for processing after the appropriate chunk of information has been shared.

Whenever we use an instructional strategy, we must consider the desired effect. The desired effect for the strategy of Chunking Information is for the content to be broken into digestible bites, enabling students to process the new information. For the strategy of Processing New Information, the desired effect is for students to be able to process the new information and demonstrate that they understand it.

Let’s consider three ways you can promote processing:

Interspersing Higher-Level Questions
Prior to the lesson, pre-plan your questions to make sure that the lesson will intersperse processing opportunities for students. Include questions that vary in complexity, to challenge all the levels of cognitive processing in your classroom.

Using Mixed Grouping Formats
Learning is a psychosocial process. Students often learn best when they have opportunities for interaction with others to support their thinking. It also gives struggling learners rehearsal time. That’s why, during those breaks in information, it’s important to allow students to support one another’s processing of the new knowledge. You can ask them questions about content, summarize what they have learned, or demonstrate the information to them in some other way.

Intentional Note-Taking
Note-taking, which usually accompanies the lecture format, should be more than just recording what the teacher is saying. Here’s your chance to build in opportunities to allow students to process more information. Some examples:

  • Provide a partial outline for students to complete. Using main ideas for headings will help them identify supporting details.
  • As students take notes, interrupt them with opportunities to summarize what they just heard. For example, have them fold over a small margin of the page and instruct them to restrict their notes to the larger inside portion of the page. After each portion of the lecture, stop and ask them to summarize the key information they will need to know in the small margin.
  • Have students create a representation of the content. This could be a diagram, a concept map, or any other type of non-linguistic representation.

Don’t Forget to Monitor
As with all strategies, monitor these for the desired effect to ensure that students understand the information that you’ve presented. Incorporating more complexity or higher levels of rigor, even with new content, promotes efficiency in deepening the students’ understanding, and the mixed-grouping formats, as described above, offer support for achieving that goal.

Do you have any tips to make students’ note-taking efforts more effective? Please share them here!

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