Two Strategies To Infuse Lectures With Learning


Lectures are ineffective methods to promote learning.

Even if you want to disagree with this premise, the scientific research remains the same. Lectures have limits. They are effective ways to transmit information. They are as effective as distributing a report to read. They are not as effective as discussions for learning.

Two Methods To Combine With Lectures

The lecture alone is rarely adequate for educational purposes. Here are two strategies to use with lectures to ensure learning occurs.

1. Quadrant Notetaking

At the beginning of your presentation, ask participants to take a blank piece of paper and draw a horizontal line dividing the page in halves. Then have them draw a vertical line creating four quadrants. Ask them to label each section using the following symbols and/or words:

  • A book – to symbolize facts
  • A light bulb – for ahas or new ideas
  • A question mark – for questions they have
  • A stick figure running – to symbolize their action plans

Stop several times during your presentation and ask your participants to write a word, phrase or sentence in a section. For example, you might stop near the beginning of your presentation and ask the audience to write a couple facts they just learned in the book section. Later you might ask them to write something new they’ve heard in the light bulb section. Half way through the presentation ask them to write something in the action plan section of what they want to apply back in the office.

Quadrant notetaking is actually an advanced organizer. It helps learners focus on specific facts and actions. It helps them organize the presentation for recall. It keeps them involved while listening. It fosters thinking and application of information. Ultimately, it becomes a review souvenir to read later.

2. The Neighbor Nudge

You’ve been presenting for about ten to twenty minutes. You know you need to stop and involve your listeners as learners. Here is a quick and short activity that will only take a couple of minutes.

Say to your audience, “It’s your turn to talk. Look at your neighbor sitting near you. Decide who will go first and who will go second (or third for triads). The first person should gently nudge their neighbor and tell him or her the most important thing they just heard in the last few minutes. Then reverse the task. You each have sixty seconds to talk to each other.

Variations on the question learners should answer:

  • Share one question you still have. See if your neighbor knows the answer.
  • State three things you now know that you didn’t know before this presentation.
  • Tell you neighbor how you plan to use the information you just heard.

Each time you use the Neighbor Nudge, have listeners find a different neighbor. This extends their neighborhood.

After pairs have discussed your content, take a few more minutes to debrief with the entire audience a few willing volunteers’ comments.

What other learning methods or strategies have you seen combined with lectures that are effective? Why do you think discussion is such an effective strategy for learning?

Want more information about lectures and strategies to increase learning? Read these:

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  1. I often will do a variation on the quadrant. After about 10-15 minutes of a lecture segment, I’ll toss up a slide summarizing the key points and invite people to rank the relevance of them for their own work and partner with someone to share which one they find most relevant and how they plan to apply it … or some variation of this.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:


      Thanks for adding a great example of how to infuse a lecture with learning. We need more examples like yours for presenters!

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