Continuing the Conversation: OTL Presents on Teaching Without Lectures

During a facilitated discussion Wednesday morning on “Trends and How-to’s of Teaching without Lectures,” faculty participants raised many thought-provoking points regarding the merits and challenges of moving away from lecture-heavy delivery of course content. The conversation was offered as part of the college’s faculty professional development series.
  • Why do we lecture? Due to factors such as program history, curricular structures, and time constraints, lectures may seem to be the most pragmatic, straight-forward way of guaranteeing delivery of the curriculum as a whole. In addition, the prospect of receiving negative student feedback for trying non-lecture activities may be inhibiting to faculty.
Dr. James M. Lang advocates for starting with “small teaching” changes, or activities that can be incorporated rather easily at the individual class or lecture level. Another idea for experimenting with small changes is flipping a class or two by assigning learning materials for review outside of class, making use of small knowledge-checking activities, and leaving class time for additional knowledge-checking, reinforcement, and application. Mini-lectures are often used in alternative delivery methods for quick provision of essential information.
  • When and where would we consider incorporating non-lecture techniques, such as active learning? First take a look at your teaching goals and learning outcomes, then consider how those outcomes are best assessed. Brainstorm what kinds of activities and materials you can offer to your students so they achieve the learning outcomes. We call this process Backward Design.
  • What is active learning? Activities in which students actively engaging with knowledge and application. Some techniques include Problem-Based Learning (PBL), Team-Based learning (TBL), and Think-Pair-Share (TPS). See this link for additional techniques.
  • How do innovative instructional approaches affect grading? It’s worth looking at whether your exam questions align with learning outcomes. You might also ask the following: Is an exam really the best method for assessing student achievement of the intended learning outcomes? If not, how can exam questions be restructured to promote learning above the recall level? Are grades given to students on exams really indicative of their outcome achievement? If not there may be a better way to measure student learning. Is student learning better assessed with competencies than grades alone?
If you are interested in learning more and/or having additional conversations, please feel free to contact Teaching and Learning at You can also find the resources from the session in this Top Hat course.

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