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A lecture is a form of teaching which is well suited to provide an overview of large volumes of material and complex knowledge. It is a characteristic of the lecture that the presentation is the main element in the teaching activity. The presentation should be composed of key points with associated activities and a dialogue in order to create awareness of and reflection on the academic content.


The function of the lecture

The lecture is a form of instruction which is well suited to provide an overview. The strength of the lecture is that large amounts of knowledge and complex knowledge may be communicated by academic experts who can render the material accessible to the students. This also means that this form of instruction is extremely loaded with information, which must be taken into consideration when planning your teaching. A lecture may for instance be an introduction to a new theme, one or a number of theories, different methodologies or research results.

The structure of the lecture

A lecture is rich in information and should be structured by a small number of key points. The points should be unpacked and linked together in an appropriate order, and it is important, in the course of the lecture, to explain the key points and make the structure of the lecture explicit so as to guide the students through the lecture. The lecture should be broken into sequences, and the key points should be placed in relation to an overall context. As a teacher you must decide in advance which points are the most important for the students to take home from the lecture. When the focus is on key points, it becomes natural to include reflection exercises and other activities or enter into dialogue with the students during the lecture.

The active lecture

Activating students during a lecture will increase their attention. Active processing of the content during the lecture provides students with an opportunity to reflect on the content and relate this to the knowledge they already possess.  At the same time, exercises at regular intervals during the lecture enable the teacher to check if the students have understood the topic, using for instance a quiz or a questionnaire. In other words, the teacher may assess if further elaboration on a topic is necessary, or if they can proceed to the next sequence or key point. 


Teachers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • How do I adapt the lecture to the preconditions of the students?

  • What are the academic key points for students to take home?

  • How do I activate the students during the lecture?

  • What are the physical conditions of the lecture? (e.g. venue and number of students)

  • How should the students prepare for the lecture? (e.g. group work or reading of text)


Examples of practice

Further reading

  • Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009): Developing undergraduate research and inquiry. York: The Higher Education Academy.

  • Ramsden, R., Margetson, D., Martin, E., & Clarke, S. (1995): Recognising and Rewarding Good Teaching in Australian Higher Education: A project Commissioned by the Committee for the Advancement of University Teaching (Final Report). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

  • Skodvin, A., Flyum, K. H., Knudsen, G., & Simonsen, E. (red.) (2011): Forelesningens kunst. Oslo: Unipub.


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