Lesson #3 in Student Engagement – Finding Your Voice



Credit: Lisa Gagne

Credit: Lisa Gagne

Today’s lesson is short and simple, but can be the most difficult to execute.

Have you ever attended a lecture and the lecturer just seems to have ‘it’?

The lecturer has great material, his slides are designed well, the lecture flows, his props are relevant, he’s kind of funny and afterward you can still remember all the main points.

This guy has a voice.

For the rest of us, finding our voice isn’t easy, but with a little experimenting and practice we can deliver a lecture that has ‘it’ too.

How to Find Your Voice

I’ve been in over a thousand lectures in the past five years and have had the opportunity to observe some great lectures as well as some not so great.

The one thing that sets good lecturers apart is their ability to engage students in a variety of different ways. They try PowerPoint, they try video, they try group activities and they try many, many different approaches for communicating with their students until they find one that works.

As they say – ‘Practice makes perfect.’

One of my favorite professors said it took him years to find a voice that works. He spent lecture after lecture testing new ways of presenting material, but to no avail.

After a particularly poor semester he decided to start lecturing in third person. It was weird. It was gimmicky, but more importantly it worked. Students loved it and he’s been doing it ever since.

The important thing is that he never stopped trying to find something that worked. It’s easy to think this whole lecturing thing will be a cinch, but when we find out how hard it is we just settle for the same only boring routine. Consistently pushing past struggles to engage students will make you a better instructor and help you find your voice.

This professor’s experiments lead us to today’s homework.

Homework: Think of how you typically lecture and try something different.

  • If you usually try to be funny – stop. Be dry.
  • If you typically present facts verbatim, try asking a lot of questions.
  • It you usually wear a tie, try ditching it.

The important part is that you make subtle changes in how you present information. Ask a student you trust to let you know if they like the new approach or if it’s a total flop. When you find something that works – stick with it for a while. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting, tweaking and testing even if you think you’ve found your perfect voice.

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