Teacher at the front of a lecture hall
22 May

The Lecture Doth Persist

Lectures, either in-class or by video, have their place in education but still too lofty a place. If they are too long they can become a waste of time and the format itself kills student interaction. Why do we persist in the lecture as primary means of teaching when research suggests there is a better way? (Dolcourt, 2000; Slavin, 1994) Jensen (2005) says that the appropriate amount of time for direct instruction of new content is maximum 18 minutes for adult learners. Is it any wonder that the insanely popular Ted talk format limits even their most famous presenters to 18 minutes? (download the official Ted talk speaker guide here) The following chart comes from Eric Jensen’s book “Teaching with the Brain in Mind” (2005, p.37).


Grade Level Appropriate Amount of Direct Instruction
K-2 5-8 minutes
Grades 3-5 8-12 minutes
Grades 6-8 12-15 minutes
Grades 9-12 12- 15 minutes
Adult Learners    15-18 minutes

A student, depending on their age, can only absorb a certain amount of new information at a time. A variety of materials and active learning activities will help increase student engagement. Boettcher (2006) writes:

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

Lectures can be part of a full learning experience, but should never subsist as the whole.

Increasing Student Interactive Activities

Consider using one of the following interactive activities to help support the weekly learning objective. There are many online educational games for younger learners, but these hand picked options could potentially be used in higher education (post high school).  I will periodically add-to and update this list:


Boettcher, J. V. (2006). Ten best practices for teaching online: quick guide for new online faculty. Retrieved from http://damitamajetteomde610.com/otte-and-banke.php

Dolcourt, J. L (2000, Summer). Commitment to change: A strategy for promoting educational effectiveness. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Profession, 20(3), 156-163.

Jensen, Eric. (2005). Teaching with the Brain In Mind, 2nd ed. ASCD, 37.

Slavin, R. E. (1994). Quality, appropriateness, incentive, and time: A model of instructional effectiveness. International Journal of Educational Research, 21(2), 141-157.

Jason Johnston