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Lecturing and the TA

"Tell 'Em What You're Going to Tell 'Em, Tell 'Em, and
Tell 'Em What You've Told 'Em"

The above phrase contains most of what you need to know to know to deliver a good lecture. You may remember that similar components were listed (phrased slightly differently) for being a successful TA. They were:

1. Plan what you're going to do.
2. Implement what you've planned.
3. Evaluate what you've done.

In this section, each of these three components is discussed as they relate to delivering a lecture.


1. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH DURING THE CLASS PERIOD. Figure out the number of points or principles you want to cover and consider examples for each. Experts figure about 15 minutes per major point; more than 15 minutes and students do not seem to retain the material.
2. USE YOUR LECTURE TO DO MORE THAN PRESENT FACTS. Share complex intellectual analyses, synthesize several ideas, compare and contrast known ideas with new ones, tell of recent studies. Since you want students to be prepared for class, give them a reason to be so. To simply restate what they have read for homework is to encourage them not to do their homework.
3. ESTABLISH YOUR TIMING. How long will it take to cover each of the main points? How far along should you be halfway through your class? If you seem to be running out of time, what will you leave out? How much time will you allot for student questions? Will you ask questions of the students? How long do you estimate that taking?
4. ANTICIPATE PROBLEM AREAS. What information may be difficult for your students? How can you make that information easier for them to understand? How can you aid student note-taking? (See "Contact with Students" in Chapter 2.)

Careful planning of your lecture will lessen the likelihood of experiencing common TA problems with respect to getting through the planned material, running short of time and experiencing disruptions in the lecture which might have been anticipated.


1. LET STUDENTS KNOW, at the beginning of class, what you will cover during that period by putting a brief outline on the board, by providing a handout, or by any other appropriate means. This will help your students to follow your lecture in their notes, or in their heads (as you speak).
2. WHERE APPROPRIATE, RELATE THIS WEEK'S WORK TO LAST WEEK'S so that students begin to develop some sense of the structure of the course content.
3. BEGIN SLOWLY AND GRADUALLY SPEED UP, watching your students for signs of life or loss of attention. In the 15 minutes you've planned for each major concept, spend no more than 10 minutes on straight lecture. Lecturing for more than 10 minutes is inadvisable, because of the strain on the listener. After 10 minutes, ask a question, tell an anecdote, or do whatever is necessary to relieve the tension of listening.
4. KEEP STUDENTS' ATTENTION with your voice and maintain contact with your students (see sections on voice and student contact).
5. EXPERIMENT WITH ALTERNATIVE LECTURING STYLES. Lecturing does not necessarily mean standing at the front of the class (somewhere between board and podium) droning at 30-500 students for 45-50 minutes. Even if this has been your experience, it is not necessary for you to perpetuate this tradition. Other possibilities for lecturing include:

* Spending the first 15 minutes having students discuss their reading in small groups. Lecture for 15-20 minutes on new material then spend the rest of the period utilizing students' questions and encouraging students to answer one another.
* Have students write down questions about the professor's lecture on a slip of paper, ask them to give these to the professor after class (or place a shoe box at the front of the room which you can retrieve after class). You can then prepare your lecture around student questions or around any issues which seemed unclear to you.

Implementing means putting into practice what you have decided to put into practice. Pay attention to what techniques seem to work well in your class. Do them again to see if they really work. If they do, add them permanently to your repertoire of techniques. See what doesn't seem to work. Experiment with different styles, questioning skills, and so on. Deliberately try to add more polish and sophistication to every lecture. Improving your teaching can be a process which never ends.


1. END YOUR LECTURE AT LEAST 5-10 MINUTES BEFORE THE END OF THE PERIOD. This allows you to recap what you have covered, using the outline from the board or handout, etc. During this time students may ask you questions or you may ask them questions. In addition to reviewing what you have done, it is a good time to find out what THEY learned from what YOU presented.
2. DEPENDING UPON YOUR STYLE, YOU MAY WISH TO HAVE STUDENTS EVALUATE THE CLASS SESSION WITH REGARD TO WHAT THEY LEARNED, what helped them learn, what hindered their learning, and what both they and you could add to the next section to facilitate teaching and learning. This may be done through informal verbal solicitation or you might run off a short sheet of questions to encourage student feedback.
3. SELF-EVALUATION IS VERY USEFUL. After you leave class, take a few minutes to assess for yourself what you liked and did not like about the lecture that you just gave. What will you continue to do? What could you do differently next time?

Evaluating in these ways allows you to informally assess what your students are or aren't learning. In addition, it allows you to improve your teaching style and, therefore, your effectiveness as a TA. Students quickly see and respond positively to TAs who are interested in being good teachers.

Later in the quarter, or any time the mood hits, look back at this section for tips on planning, implementing, and evaluating your lectures. Perhaps you'll find ideas to help you when you feel that something isn't going right and you are not sure what that "something" is.

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
TBD ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall


Laurel Shaddixoffice manager 1130 Kerr Hall
faxfax: 805-893-5915