Moving from lecturing to interactive teaching can be daunting, particularly for economists who may have never experienced any other type of classroom. Here are some suggestions for those new to interactive teaching…
Prepare yourself mentally
Many instructors will say that one of the most rewarding aspects of an interactive classroom is seeing students take control of their own learning. However, an important cost for the instructor is giving up some control. While lecturing allows the instructor strict control over the material that is presented and the pace of presentation, interactive teaching requires more flexibility. A common way of putting it is that instructors move from being a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side”. Because students are doing more on their own, you must be prepared for things to go differently than you might have planned or expected.
Ease into it
Few instructors jump straight from traditional lecturing to a fully interactive classroom. There are many ways that you can ease into a more interactive approach and then ramp up as you get more comfortable. Sheridan, Hoyt and Imazeki (2014) use the term ‘gateway’ pedagogies to identify techniques that are accessible, easy to implement and effective. The first gateway is to simply make relevance clear and change lecture format regularly. Slightly more advanced approaches have students learn from each other, in small groups or with simple demonstrations. Techniques that involve technology generally have higher start-up costs but can allow for more interaction in even very large classes.
Modify to your comfort level
Many of the resources provided on this site can be modified for instructors at different stages of comfort with interactive teaching, or with larger classes where interaction may seem more difficult. For example, an easy way to start with cooperative learning (in classes of any size) is to use “think-pair-share” where the instructor poses a question, students discuss with a neighbor and then share responses with the class. A more advanced version might involve students using clickers to submit their responses before the peer discussion; an even more advanced version would put students into formal groups where they would develop a team response to a complex problem.
Here are additional examples to give you an idea of what modifications might look like for different types of activities:
Song or video clips (Lecture Launchers)
One way to motivate concepts with examples that relate directly to students’ lives is to use popular music or clips from movies and TV shows. For each of the topics on this site, there are links or references for these Lecture Launchers. These can be used in a variety of ways, listed here from least to most interactive:
- Simply play clips as students enter the classroom. Some of the songs linked on this site (identified as ‘Econ videos’) include videos that highlight the relevant economic concepts; you could also create your own video to do this.
- Play clips as students enter the classroom and use as launching point for discussion of concepts.
- Have students answer questions or work on problems that relate the song or clip to specific course concepts. This would be done individually or you could have students work in pairs or groups.