I am in a situation where I have several adult students for an all-day career training program that runs for about a year. So, they and I sit in the classroom most of a normal work-week. I decide when to get up and lecture. Although I tell them to raise questions any time, they rarely do unless I ask.

I enjoy speaking in front of the class, but because it is not on a particular schedule, I usually find that I have trouble motivating myself to get started. I don't have employee reviews or a mentor. My feeling in class is similar to how I have never gotten used to making phone calls: every time, it is like jumping into cold water, it never gets any easier. (I would rather talk in person. I am almost 50, by the way, and male.) How do I get beyond this basic motivation hurdle?

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    I used to feel the same. Now I love lecturing, but still hate making phone calls. Practice, trying to make it an enjoyable experience for all present, knowing the material, planning interaction, .... – Dave Clarke Jan 21 '15 at 21:10
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    Lecturing is only one of many ways to teach, and certainly not always the most effective. If it doesn't appeal to you, consider developing a teaching style based on something else (projects, activities, ...) – Nate Eldredge Jan 21 '15 at 21:17
  • Perhaps it is like a social anxiety situation. When I have a clear role or job to do at the time, I just do it. But when it is ambiguous or I have to decide, often I have trouble. – user28174 Jan 21 '15 at 23:16
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    I don't know how you're running your training session, but when I've done "non-traditional" classes, I go around and talk to the students. They either ask questions directly or it's clear that they're stuck on something, and when several people have this issue I just start explaining to them at the board and usually everyone else listens. (These were small classes.) – Kimball Jan 22 '15 at 2:17
  • @NateEldredge has the correct answer; except not sufficiently strongly worded. The evidence I have seen says lecturing is never the most effective method. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 23 '15 at 1:05

I don't enjoy lecturing either and yet my student reviews ask for more lectures even if I prefer discussion. What I've done for some classes is prepare a portfolio of 15 minute mini-lectures that are on one specific point, targeted, succint, and within the attention span (maybe) of 18 year olds.

You might also want to create a similar grab bag of canned material so that when a particular topic arises, you can easily lecture on it.

Otherwise, the only other way is to practice. I've realized my own aversion to lecturing is something I need to work more on, so I deliberately designed a large lecture course that was 100% lecturing, rather than the smaller seminar courses that I prefer.

  • I like your suggestions. When things are scheduled I feel a bit of anxiety, but there is no question of going ahead. It is when I need to choose the time to present something that I have trouble. Maybe it has more to do with confidence, or knowing what my role is at any given time? – user28174 Jan 21 '15 at 23:12
  • Since these are all day sessions, why don't you plan to have mini-lectures at set times - say 11a and 3p. That helps break up the day and if they are planned times, then people won't mind if they are a bit off topic so you won't have to worry about segues. – RoboKaren Jan 22 '15 at 1:01
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    Context switching between friendly discussion leader (userland mode) to lecturer (hypervisor mode) is tough, but that's why they pay us the big bucks. :) – RoboKaren Jan 22 '15 at 1:03

Why not schedule some of them? Put up a weekly schedule of lectures based on what the students are working on. You could even brainstorm with the students on what they'd like to hear. Also, do they have preference on when they would prefer lectures? First thing in the morning, just before lunch, not after lunch (too sleepy), etc.

  • I guess that scheduling the coming week makes me confront the "when to stand up and lecture" issue head-on. Usually it is fairly obvious, but other times I have to make a judgment call. At those times, my resolve is often low. – user28174 Jan 21 '15 at 23:14

Consider you are your first student: a Latin saying says "Docendo discimus", or "The best way to learn is to teach" (attributed to Frank Oppenheimer). I am amazed how I still find simpler or nicely illustrative ways to explaining stuff I have been teaching for years. Which in turn help me understand them better. And you can turn that into an exercise of Learning by teaching (allow students to prepare and to teach lessons, or parts of lessons). Or into a book?


Your "problem" is very unusual. Most people love to hear themselves talk!

Which leads me to a creative proposal. How about if you ask your students to prepare some short presentations, too? Then you wouldn't be the only one taking a turn standing at the front of the room explaining something.

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    It has gotten a bit better. I just started a new session with more students and so things are lively now. Also, my general level of anxiety has fallen a lot since I posted the question. – user28174 Nov 22 '15 at 20:37
  • Glad to hear it's better now. – aparente001 Nov 23 '15 at 0:06

Preparation (or "class prep" as many call it). Write it down.

Schedule in advance when lectures will be given (perhaps on a monthly or quarterly basis). Write down notes on what you will say and present. Some people practice this in advance (personally, I just practice it mentally a bit). Keep records and write down modifications, improvements, and refinements.

I often do the same for phone calls with strangers (particularly on touchy subjects). Write down a short script or some notes and read from that to get started. A little prep time always makes a big difference.

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