The university I work at has 2 hours of lectures and 2 hours of tutorials. How can I make the lectures more interesting and interactive than regular lecture mode? As usually I keep my tutorials hands on, discussion wise and engaging.

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    Active learning is a good way to prevent students from zoning out and forces them to practice the problems while they're learning it in your presence instead of after they've gone back to their dorms on their own. Oct 19, 2023 at 1:01
  • @cameronwilliams how do I make it active learning?
    – user178335
    Oct 19, 2023 at 1:13
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    There is a lot of literature on active learning and many different philosophies about active learning. I suggest reading up and deciding which you think make the most sense for you, your students, and your course content. Oct 19, 2023 at 1:14

5 Answers 5


There is a large number of good books on becoming a better teacher, including ones on "active learning". If you are still at the beginning of your journey of discovering how teaching well works (and who you are as a teacher), a good starting point would be "How learning works" by Ambrose. I've read it twice with all the members of my research group and found it to be a good introduction to thinking about teaching.

Most universities also have Teaching Excellent centers (under many different names). They often offer courses for teachers, and it's worthwhile going to some of these.


The answer by @WolfgangBangerth is the more complete answer. Using the resources at your university and reading books is definitely the way to go. I'll just give one additional suggestion that does not quite fit in a comment.

There are many tools out there that allows you to give quizzes, allow the students to anonymously ask question and give feedback during the lecture. For example: https://particify.de/en/

It is easy for us to forget that many students have never (or very rarely) spoken in such a large room with so many people, and asking questions in such a context is just too intimidating for many of them. Providing an alternative, less frightening way of interacting with me real time during the lecture helped a lot.

The quizzes gave me a quick feedback of what was clear and what not. But more importantly, it gives natural little breaks during the lecture, where the students can recover a bit from the tedium of listening to me.

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    Thank you so much Maarten Buis for the app! It’s very useful.
    – user178335
    Oct 19, 2023 at 10:31
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    Quizzes are good, but you don't really need an app. I include simple are-you-awake multiple choice questions, and ask students to vote by raising a hand. I reassure students I don't keep track of who votes what, but I do want to see every hand up at some point, even if they're just guessing wildly. Then I get them to talk to each other for a couple of minutes, and repeat the vote. I note how much the correct fraction improves if they talk to their colleagues. If the correct fraction, on the second asking, is about 3/4, I think I'm going at about the right speed. Also it gives folk a break. Oct 19, 2023 at 16:00
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    @NormanGray: I'd recommend you turn that nice comment into an answer. Oct 19, 2023 at 16:14
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    I very much agree with the approach by @NormanGray. I frequently, in my own classes, ask students what they think the answer to something should be. The best times is if there is genuine disagreements between students, because then I can let them debate the matter (in small groups, or the whole class) -- it is truly enjoyable to see them figure out the right answer. Oct 19, 2023 at 17:17
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    Of course, I will add that that wasn't something I would likely have done in my early years as a teacher; back then, I just needed more structure and control, whereas these days I'm much more self confident in my role as a teacher and happy to step back and just let things play out. Oct 19, 2023 at 17:18

Myself, I would reframe the question from ‘how do I make lectures interesting?’ to ‘how do I help students engage?’. Interactivity is one facet of that, but not necessarily the only way (a question about copying lecture notes from the board popped up in the sidebar a couple of days ago – copying longhand is a type of ‘interactive teaching’, I suppose, but not one I found efficient, as a student, since it seems like the wrong sort of interaction).

A further way of reframing that is to ask ‘why would a student turn up to my lectures?’ – what is the answer you'd hope one of your students would give in response? ‘Because there's an attendance sheet’ or ‘because that's the only way of getting the material’ are not, in my opinion, great answers there. I don't take attendance, and I hand out notes ahead of time (and in the terms of the linked question, I gravitate towards the ‘write a book’ end of the notes spectrum), but I get good numbers turning up, so I feel I'm doing something right. But what? I'm not sure, but for example...

Quizzes are good. Once or occasionally twice per lecture, I include simple are-you-awake multiple choice questions, and ask students to vote by raising a hand. I reassure students that I don't keep track of who votes what, but I do want to see every hand up at some point, even if they're just guessing wildly. Then I get them to talk to each other for a couple of minutes, and repeat the vote. I point out to them how much the correct fraction improves after they've talked over their puzzlement with their colleagues. If the correct fraction, on the second asking, is about 3/4, I think I'm going at about the right speed. Also it gives them, and me, a break. The justification for this particular ‘interaction’ is that it's interaction with the material – they're forced to immediately apply what they've just semi-learned – rather than an interaction with me.

There are numerous other activities one can do, of course, a few of which I've tried. The quiz one is the main one I've stuck with, but anything you can get working, which stimulates them to take an immediate second bite at the material, will work. There should be at least some texture: material which goes down too easily, like junk food, isn't nutritious.

You can bring that texture in multiple ways. Because I distribute detailed notes, I'm free to present the material in a different way in the lecture, orally rather than textually, perhaps more informally, or skipping algebraic slog (‘see the notes for the details’), or focusing on key points, or giving free rein to enthusiasm. Anything I wasn't clear about, the students can check in the notes, which will require engagement or interactivity on their part, to square what they got from the lecture, with the drier but careful and caveated details there (that is, it might even be useful for me to be unclear in the lecture, though I don't think I'd push this point). The fact that I'm doing something beyond reading out the material is the driver for them integrating the new material in their heads, which is (at least in my rationalisation) their payoff for turning up.

Also, when it comes down to it, a lecture is a performance: I sing for my supper, and like an old West End/Broadway hoofer, I enjoy it, and I hope the students do, too.


I live and die by keeping students engaged. If my attendance drops too low, they cancel the future class.

The books on learning engagement are about making sure you maintain control of the classroom and content. Control is an illusion - let go.

Rules & Tools:

  1. Timing = Pomodoro 25, on 5 off.
  2. Bonus points for asking interesting questions about the material before the start of lecture. (IDK what you are allowed for extra credit) Let their questions drive discussion (not lecture) as far as possible.
  3. Interaction every 5-7 minutes: 1 min. activity will be enough.
  4. Since we live in an online world, treat everything like it's online. Use their phone as a part of YOUR toolset. Mentimeter (not kahoot) - use every tool/slide type in Mentimeter, make up your own games. Example: I teach cybersecurity so we play threats and controls. I give students 2-4 threats in the context of the current lesson, they give me controls- free form. I talk it out with them. Mentimeter is anonymous: Students like this because they can guess and be wrong and still try.
  5. Have fun, don't take yourself to seriously. Take your subject seriously, love what you do. Good luck!

Do you follow a written lesson plan? The lesson plan should include learning objectives and a list of subtopics. The lesson can be broken up into the following parts:

(1) Warm up: A brief activity or question to get students thinking about the day's topic.

(2) Introduce first topic

(3) Short lecture, slides, video, etc. The lecture could be as short as 5 minutes since it's only about one subtopic.

(4) Small-group activity to work on the subtopic.

(5) Whole-group discussion of what was learned or observed during the small-group activity.

(6) Repeat for each subtopic of the lesson.

(7) Verify learning: Review the concepts, test understanding with questions

(8) Wrap-up: brief, 5 minutes.

This is a student-centered approach organized around learning objectives and interactions among and with students. It's the opposite of teacher-centered lecturing. It takes planning, creativity, and good classroom management skills, but in the end it's more interesting and effective for your students and you.

  • This seems 'generic' student-centered learning. Would be great to 'wrap' it around OP class scenario. ... PS: I didn't down vote as I believe your answer has hidden merit in it. Nov 6, 2023 at 9:25
  • The poster's question was generic so yes, my reply was generic.
    – Eggy
    Nov 6, 2023 at 17:42

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