5 topics you would focus on in a class lecture and explain why. These topics can be people, events, ideas, themes, etc. – the choice is yours! However, you must defend each choice with a written justification to include:
The most challenging part of being a professor of history teaching a survey course is deciding what to focus on each week knowing there’s not enough class time to cover everything. Chapters 3 & 4 are some of our broadest, most content-rich chapters. So, determining what focused points and broad connections to focus on is a difficult, but
For this assignment, students should read Chapters 3 & 4 in your textbook and review Chapter 3 & 4 – PDF Lectures. From this information, you must determine the 5 topics you would focus on in a class lecture and explain why. These topics can be people, events, ideas, themes, etc. – the choice is yours!
However, you must defend each choice with a written justification to include:
Why you would focus on this choice.
What key point(s) or argument(s) you would focus on for each choice.
What broader historical connections can be made from investigating this point (broader, thematic connections across the timeline of U.S. HISTORY?)
So – to complete this assignment please:
Provide your Top 5 Topic Choices from across Chapters 3 & 4 and a written justification (3 – 5 sentences) for why you chose each topic. This will serve as…
When done right, lectures remain an invaluable tool for building student knowledge. Here’s the research on how to optimize your time in front of the class.
“Lecture is not a dirty word,” writes education professor Jess Gregory, pushing back on the idea that only student-centered learning has merit. While it’s true that lengthy, uninterrupted “sage on the stage”-style monologues are increasingly outdated, guiding students toward specific learning goals by using a whiteboard and prepared notes is often the most efficient means to build content knowledge and tackle complex topics. It’s really a matter of getting the right pedagogical mix.
There is a sweet spot, according to the research. In a large-scale 2017 analysis of PISA scores for over half a million students, researchers concluded that “the students with the best outcomes receive a blend of inquiry-based and teacher-directed instruction,” with direct instruction making up a slightly greater part of a successful learning mix. Meanwhile, a 2014 study found that when students attended classes that emphasized traditional lectures, they were 1.5 times more likely to fail the course than their peers in classrooms that buttressed lectures with a diverse range of activities such as low-stakes quizzes, group discussions, and projects.
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While direct instruction and lectures are not entirely synonymous—teachers impart knowledge directly during group activities and demonstrations, for example—the lecture remains a useful mainstay of direct instruction in classrooms around the world. Still, lectures have some obvious drawbacks: They can rapidly become boring or overwhelm students with information, causing them to lose focus and tune out. Here are eight tips to make your lectures more engaging, and the material more memorable, based on the research.
It’s hard for students to engage with your lecture if they can’t make sense of it to begin with. In a 2019 study, researchers discovered that student comprehension of a topic was severely hampered if they didn’t meet a “knowledge threshold”—being unfamiliar with 59 percent of terms in the topic resulted in “compromised” comprehension.
A simple review of key vocabulary terms and concepts before the lecture is a useful scaffold, but there are more structured ways to bolster background knowledge. Before jumping into new material, Jeanne Wanzek, a former elementary school teacher and current professor of education at Vanderbilt University, suggests a “comprehension canopy,” a review activity that involves making connections to previously covered material before posing a broad, engaging question that hooks students. You can also show an introductory video to help build interest in a topic, and then debrief with a short discussion before jumping into your lecture.
Finally, pretests are surprisingly effective, a 2018 study shows. When students are quizzed before they’re exposed to new material, they make the kinds of productive mistakes that pique curiosity and lead them to seek out the correct answers as the lesson unfolds.
The longer you talk, the more students will struggle to pay attention. In a 2016 study, researchers concluded that elementary students were unable to focus for more than 10 minutes. Middle and high school students can hold on a little longer, but a landmark 2011 study reveals the same linear relationship between time and retention: Material presented earlier in a lecture is retained more reliably than material presented later.
Brief brain breaks—such as a short bout of exercise, a mindfulness break, or a fun off-topic activity to stimulate conversation—can reset students’ attention and provide space to process new learning.
Such breaks are more fundamental to learning than we assume. In a 2021 study, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health concluded that “‘much, if not all’ skill learning occurs offline during rest rather than during actual practice.” After learning a new skill, downtime allows the brain to process the information, resulting in improved skill acquisition and memory consolidation. Instead of cooling off, brain activity actually spiked during breaks: The researchers observed a 20-fold increase in neural activity between the hippocampus and neocortex, brain regions responsible for memory and higher cognitive functioning.
Periodically, take a few minutes to check for student understanding. These probing exercises help unearth gaps in student understanding, briefly change the dynamics of your lecture, and provide an opportunity to review the materials and make the information stick.
You can try quick dipsticks like the popular Muddy Moment, during which you ask students, “What about this information so far frustrates or confuses you?” or ask students to use hand gestures like an up, down, or sideways thumb to signal their understanding of a concept.
Brief, low-stakes quizzes are also extremely effective. In a 2014 study, middle and high school students who took practice tests shortly after a lesson scored an average of 18 percentage points higher than their peers who didn’t—the equivalent of almost two full letter grades. When quizzing, it’s better to get all students to respond and to ask a mix of questions, ranging from factual to higher-order complex ones, researchers suggest in a 2013 study, because “repeatedly asking the same type of questions might intimidate students”—or bore them.