Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared a bit about Jason Stacy’s article in Social Education titled The Guide on the Stage: In Defense of Good Lecturing in the History Classroom.

Jason suggests that when done well, lecturing is a tool that engages students, encourages constructivist learning and supports historical thinking. Part one focused on the Problem-Centered lecture and part two talked about the Comparative lecture.

This week?

The Thesis-Driven Lecture.

Jason suggests that the Thesis-Driven lecture

demands interaction from students even when they are quietly taking notes.

This happens because you inform your students of your thesis and objectives before the lecture begins and tell them that you intend to prove your thesis to their satisfaction. The Thesis-Driven lecture works best when your thesis is something that students think is wrong or “absurd.”

To teach the period prior to the American Revolution, Jason uses the thesis: “The American reaction against British taxation was illegal, unjustified and fundamentally unnecessary.” This method usually works best with material known to students or in opposition to their textbook.

But it allows, even encourages, students to challenge your thinking during the lecture. And so instead of passively copying notes, students begin constructing counter-arguments and alternative perspectives to the one you’ve presented.

Another example might be the teacher who asks middle school students to look at a map of ancient Egypt and suggest that the best place for human settlement in not along the Nile River. Or a high school teacher suggesting that Lincoln was wrong to resupply Fort Sumter.

Some may use Jason’s article as an excuse to return to a very traditional, very direct and very ineffective lecture style.  What he is suggesting is that instruction that includes problem-centered, comparative and thesis-based lectures allows you to present factual information while also demanding that students actively engage with the material.

So a quick overview of Interactive Lectures:

  • Requires that you are very familiar with the material
  • Be sure to use material that will raise questions, spark debate and challenge student assumptions
  • Encourage high level thinking and conversation through open-ended questions
  • Use the Chunk & Chew method when presenting new information (10-20 minutes of instruction and two to four minutes of small group discussion)
  • Understand that an interactive lecture is not a class discussion – it is “explicitly” didactic with a clear end in mind

As Jason says:

The problem . . . is not lecturing but bad lecturing.

Have fun!

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