Friday, April 28, 2006

Shameless soliciting

Right, it's coming up for PANIC PANIC PANIC time (next Thursday, in fact). So this goes out to those of you who have experience in giving lectures: can you give me any advice? (Other than "prepare more than a week in advance", thank you, because that's not quite do-able anymore.)

I have a vague outline of what I want to say and now I'm working on how I'm going to say it: preferably making it a little more interactive than the usual lectures they get in this class (which are usually structured as a one-sided information dump).

I would especially appreciate any useful nuggets of information along the lines of, "You might think lecturing to a couple of hundred students is the same as tutoring a class of 20, but..." Any pitfalls I should be aware of?

The main difference that I am expecting is that while the material I go over in the tutorials is mostly not new, the lecture material will all be completely new to the students. Compounding this is the fact that, although the superficial 10-minute overview version of the topic is really just the explanation of one quite simple concept, the minute I want to go into depth on any part of it it will get complex and extremely detailed very quickly. And I'm not 100% how much new information students can absorb in one lecture (these are first years, too, so possibly more of what I'll say will be new information to them than I am expecting it to be).

So: any suggestions for dealing with that? Any other warnings? Suggestions? Warm shoulders to cry on?

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grace said...

In my limited experience of speaking to big classes vs. small classes (talking to classes was quite a big thing when I did Feminist Studies), there is a big difference in interactivity.

Students in large classes tend to sit there like big lumps even if they are quite interested in what you are saying. So I'd warn you to be prepared just to talk! They quite likely will sit there and goggle.

If they seem *very* goldfish-like, check you are in the right room ;-)

enn said...

Re Grace's point about checking you're in the right room: yes, once a fiendish Stage I law class let a Stats lecturer go on for 10 minutes before the real lecture arrived and relieved him (in more ways than one!)

My advice (and you're not going to like it) is not to over-prepare, because you'll sound robotic and nervous, but to wing it as much as you can (practice speaking beforehand from one-word notes) and to let the adrenaline surge carry you through.

shrinkykitten said...

I don't know if I have any advice. I don't find that getting discussions going with a larger group are any harder than with a smaller group - but they are harder to rein in and focus. But, people may be less likely to tell personal linguistic stories :)

I hoope it is fun and a good experience!

turtlebella said...

darn just wrote a bunch of stuff then lost it. OK, the short version is: I don't know what field you are in, linguistics??? But is there any way you could get a little discussion going. I've passed out index cards to the students in a large class and at some point in lecture had them write stuff on them, using knowledge and concepts they have from previous course material, etc. Assumptions of a new theory, their guesses about what's important and why (this is all very vague since I don't know your field). After giving them a couple of minutes to think and write down their thoughts you can ask for volunteers or call on people you've seen writing. Write their answers on the board, add your own ideas, use their answers to guide them to where you want them to get to. May work as a transition from your overview to the deeper, more substantive new material you are covering. I find it works to wake them up a bit, get them thinking. And with the index card they don't have the oh my gosh she just called on me my brain is blank kind of problem. This has worked for me in large biology classes.

Also useful in a large lecture format is to have an outline of the lecture, on the board off to the side or on an overhead. Helps the students (and you!) to know where you are, where you've been, where you are going.

Also, you might want to check out New Kid I haven't read through it all, but since she teaches humanities type stuff there might be useful suggestions there for you...

Good luck, and HAVE FUN. If you are jazzed by material, at least some of the students will be too.

turtlebella said...

hmmm, not sure my html tag worked, the computer i am on is kinda weird to me! just in case: See the part on pedagogy roundtable, round 2.

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks, everyone!

Grace -- these students are especially goldfish-like even in their tutes, so I'm not expecting miracles here. I have seen guest lecturers in this course in the past succeed with a little interactivity, though, so I'd like to see if I can do the same.

Enn -- thank you for legitimising my laziness :) In truth, though, I'm not going to be able to overprepare, because ScaryLecturer promised to give me some notes and materials that I REALLY REALLY need in order to know exactly where I'm going with the stuff I'll teach, and despite me buggin him relentlessly about it for the past three days, I still don't have it.

The scary thing about winging it, though, is the fear that I might end up going through the stuff too fast (by leaving things out or glossing over parts of it) and ending up with 15 minutes to fill and nothing to say.

Shrinkykitten -- I'm not going to go out of my way to start discussions as such. There isn't really much in the material that can be debated. But I do want to see if I can get the students to generate some of the key bits of the theory I am teaching themselves -- I'm thinking I will start by presenting them with the interesting data and lead them through the analysis of it to some of the conclusions people have come up with. But I want them to be doing some of the work, at least in their own heads, but maybe out loud, too.

For which I think Turtlebella's suggestion might work very well.
Thanks too, for the suggestion about the outline, Turtlebella. I definitely plan to do that, since one of the gripes the students have been having with ScaryLecturer's lectures is that he wanders from point to point and no one ever knows where he is going or when he has got there. I think usually he does have a structure, but it's not clear to the students. So I plan to make my structure clear.

I saw the stuff at New Kid's, but never got further than about five or six comments down in the thread before my over-excitable link-clicking hand took me elsewhere. I should go back and read it all, because I'm sure there's a lot of useful stuff there.