Teaching effectively

Simple Rule: ENGAGE YOUR CLASS! Why should you engage your learners instead of just standing before them, lecturing?

An old Chinese proverb sums it up best...

tell me and I forget,

teach me and I learn,

engage me and I remember.

How do you engage a class?

The attention span of an adult learner is short. Some suggest that most adults can only stay focused for 10-15 minutes at a time. Combine this with the idea that we only retain 20% of what we hear, and what you have as an instructor–if you are only lecturing to your class–is a room full of blank stares within 10-15 minutes after you begin.


Here are a few suggestions for ENGAGING your class:

  1. Use a variety of media. Media types should be varied at least once every 10 minutes. For example, you could start with lecturing and writing on the board, then migrate to a PowerPoint presentation, video clip, or having students work on a computer. This provides a nice mixture of media types that will keep your class engaged.
  2. Ask questions that promote discussion. This is a great way to keep your class alert and will provide feedback on their understanding of the concepts.
  3. Provide exercises and activities that provide group interaction, an opportunity to move, or be engaged in discovery.

How do you present your content in a way that ENGAGES?

  1. Relevance– is your content relevant to what your class needs to know or do?
  2. Are you telling a story?– teaching is really about storytelling. Think of your content in this way. Does it tell a story? If not, structure the content into smaller chunks that are linked together in a logical flow.
  3. Your physical position– Do not block the learners’ view of your visuals and try to move around the room as you present.
  4. Establish rapport– comfortable learners are more likely to learn. Call learners by name when you can and never compromise anyone’s self-esteem (e.g., never criticize in public).
  5. Be a good conversationalist– look your participants in the eye and talk with them, rather than at them.
  6. PowerPoint– more slides are not necessarily better. When preparing PowerPoint presentations, consider the 6x6 rule: never more than 6 bullet points per slide, 6 lines per slide, or 6 text-only slides in a row. Also, ensure your text is readable from the back of the room.
  7. Self-evaluate yourself at the end of the class to determine what went well or could be improved. This will benefit your lesson on its next offering.
Prepared with input from AD Atkinson and MA Bell