One of the best ways an instructor can engage their students is by modifying their presentation style. Classes don't have to be lecture heavy and monotonous and it can be helpful for students to mix up your presentation strategy to keep things fresh and keep students interested (Bain 2004). Here we have included some ways to consider adjusting your presentation style.
Prepare. Of course, it's great to practice your lectures beforehand so you don't have to rely on reading off notes or slides. However, practicing your delivery can also be helpful. Play around with different gestures, facial expressions, and emphasis of words to change up your physical presence and speech patterns to keep students engaged (Gross Davis 1993). If your course is primarily online, consider having recorded videos posted on Canvas. Pre-recorded videos allow you to have multiple takes and include editing to make your presentation feel more dynamic. Preparation for in-person or online courses will also help with the stress before teaching.
Consider the verbal and non-verbal. If possible, familiarize yourself with the classroom in which you will be teaching before the semester. The room can act as your stage, so it's helpful to feel confident in the space as well as the material. This will make you seem more relaxed so you can present material that fits your personality, helping avoid rigidity and unclear or monotonous speech. If your class is online, you can have the flexibility of having different backgrounds and settings based on where you decide to record. This too can help you create a dynamic video that keeps your students interested.
Keep your audience in mind. Be sure to make eye contact, not just to show students you are paying attention to them, but to see how students are absorbing the information you are delivering (McKeachie 2005). Are people drifting off or seeming distracted? Do they look confused or overwhelmed? Keeping your audience in mind will allow you to present information according to their needs in ways that are difficult to cover during preparation.
Timing is key. Be sure that your information is paced well with necessary breaks or pauses built into the lecture itself. This will help keep students more engaged during class, but it will help you run on time since students often don't pay as close of attention before or after the official class time. Consider creating a timeline for your classes to help provide structure and keep you on track.
Visual aids should be a friend, but not a crutch. PowerPoints, whiteboards, images, and videos can all be helpful learning tools for your class. However, be careful to prepare before class, so they don't become a crutch for you to remember the information. Students are there for your instruction, relying too heavily on visual aids can lessen their interest as they feel they could have gotten this information on their own time (Sammons 1995).
Questions. Before class, come up with some clear, direct questions that you can ask the class. Questions help break up your lecture and to engage students in their own learning. When designing classes, keep in mind the learning objectives for that specific material in addition to the overarching course goals. Consider asking one question at a time if you plan on continuing to lecture afterward to help keep focus. If the lecture section is complete, consider having students ask each other questions related to the material. For an online course, questions are particularly helpful for discussion boards or collaborative discussion formats like a shared Google Doc or Box folder. Other ideas for facilitating group discussions can be found on the Knute Broady Collection's Active Learning page.
For more ideas, Washington University in St. Louis' effective lecture video can be a helpful resource.
Bain, Ken. (2004). "What the Best College Teachers Do." Harvard University Press.
Gross Davis, Barbara (1993). "Delivering a Lecture." Tools for Teaching.
McKeachie, Wilbert, et al. (2005). "McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers." Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 12.
Sammons, Martha. (1995). "Students Assess Computer-Aided Classroom Presentations." The Journal Online.