Effective Lecture

Researchers identified several principles of adult learning (see corresponding table for a summary), one of which is through introducing content to adult learners. One method of doing this is through lectures or an oral presentation that transmits or conveys information.1 This is one of the most common methods of teaching at the university level.2

From a review of the research, lectures showed a strong effect on learning outcomes.3 Though lectures can be an effective way to teach, they can also be boring. Research has shown that student attention spans are usually 10-20 minutes long and that students prefer lectures that include short breaks with activities.45   With this in mind, lectures can become an engaging part of teaching. This site presents evidence-based teaching and learning strategies and applies them within the context of planning, presenting, and assessing a lecture. Additional articles, books and websites that you may find useful are included in the resources section. 



Engage the learner in a preview of the material, knowledge or practice that is the focus of instruction or training


Demonstrate or illustrate the use or applicability of the material, knowledge or practice for the learner



Engage the learner in the use of the material, knowledge or practice


Engage the learner in a process of evaluating the consequence or outcome of the application of the material, knowledge or practice

Deep Understanding


Engage the learner in self-assessment of his or her acquisition of knowledge and skills as a basis for identifying “next steps” in the learning process


Engage the learner in a process of assessing his or her experience in the context of some conceptual or practical model or framework, or some external set of standards or criteria

Source: Dunst &  Trivett, 2009


(1) Bligh, D. A. (2000). What’s the use of lectures? London, UK: Jossey Boss.

(2) Donovan, M. S., Bransford, J. D., & Pellegrino, J.W. (Eds.).(1999). How people learn: Bridging research and practice. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

(3) Dunst, C. J. & Trivett, C. M. (2009). Let’s be PALS: An evidence-based approach to professional development. Infants and Young Children, 22(3), 164-176.

(4) Middendorf, J. & Kalish, A. (1996). The “Change-Up” in Lectures. The National Teaching & Learning Forum, 5, 2.

(5) Revell, A. & Wainwright, E. (2009). What makes lectures “unmissable”? Insights into teaching excellence and active learning. Journal of geography in higher education, 33(2), 209-223.