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Interactive Lecture

Lectures can be more educator-centered and transmissive or more interactive, incorporating a great deal of participation. What we'll refer to below are these "interactive lectures," which often incorporate active learning strategies such as think-pair-share or think-write-share, role-playing, skeleton notes, demonstrations, etc. When using interactive lectures, we propose transitions at least every 15 minutes to re-engage learners (Bunce, Flens, & Neiles, 2010).  Other best practices for interactive lectures according to Rutgers (2017) include: 

  • Pre-planning – Set learning objectives and design holistically, selecting content and interaction techniques through a lesson planning process. 
  • Setting the tone – Encourage a culture of engagement and community early on in your course. It's easier to establish behavior patterns up-front than it is to get people to change pre-established behavior patterns. 
  • Framing and introducing activities – If you can articulate activities in advance, including their purpose, it will assist learners in mentally preparing and in understanding relevance. Example: "Today's lecture will include two-minute pauses at regular intervals. During these pauses, you are to turn to a peer and compare notes, recording questions you have related to the content on our course backchannel. The purpose of these pauses is two-fold; first, to give you a chance to digest the material and reflect on your understanding of it, and second, to bring areas that need clarification to my attention." 

Silver & Perini (2010) elaborate on planning, offering The Interactive Lecture Cycle in 4 phases: 

  1. Connect: Create a "hook," or an attention grabber, "kindle" the hook by allowing learners time to stop and think about it, and then create a "bridge" between the hook and what they already know to the content of the lecture. 
  2. Organize: Design a visual organizer (see this example) to provide a map of the structure of your lecture to learners, then present the content in "chunks," allowing time for learners to process the chunk and commit it to working memory. 
  3. Dual-Code: Encourage strong, deep learning through use of tactics like visual media, emphasis, concrete examples, providing elaboration, vocal tone, etc. Help learners rehearse, reinforce, and expand understanding by explaining ideas in their own words, exploring their emotional connections to content, or creating visual/physical representations of ideas. 
  4. Exercise & Elaborate: Take regular breaks in the lecture to pose questions for thinking from various perspectives: content mastery, concept understanding, self-expressive, and interpersonal. Have learners apply what they've learned in a synthesis task that encourages holistic processing of the lecture (e.g. case studies, problem-solving activities, design tasks, predictive modeling, lab experiments, synthesis papers, etc.).   


Additional resources

If you're teaching in a lecture hall or other large group space without a lot of mobility, review our tips for lecture hall learning.

Learn more about the Interactive Lecture Cycle from Silver & Perini (2010).

For a list of specific strategies related to interactive lecture, check out the Rutgers Interactive Lecture Strategies page.


Bunce, D. M., Flens, E. A., & Neiles, K. Y. (2010). How long can students pay attention in class? A study of student attention decline using clickers. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(12), 1438-1443. 

Rutgers (2017). Interactive lecture strategies. Rutgers Digital Classroom Servies. Retrieved from  

Silver, H. F. & Perini, M. J. (2010). The Interactive Lecture: How to Engage Students, Build Memory, and Deepen Comprehension. Silver Strong & Associates.