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Davis, California

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Lectures should be more interactive

Professors need to find ways to improve engagement and learning


By AUDREY BOYCE — afboyce@ucdavis.edu


I am currently finishing up my second year as a psychology major here at UC Davis, and most of my psych classes, with the exception of one, have been in the same format: two or three lectures a week, three multiple-choice tests (including the final) and possibly a low-stakes essay.

I am somewhat disappointed that this is what my psychology education has consisted of. I imagined that, in classes, we would be looking at case studies of patients and having big class discussions about them or writing weekly assignments based on complex ideas or theories.

I do, however, understand that lecturing and multiple-choice tests may be the only way to get across the amount of material we need to learn, given the amount of time we have within the 10-week quarters. After all, I should have known what I was getting myself into when choosing a school on the quarter system.  

My dream of escaping the endless memorization of material and being tested on my knowledge through multiple-choice tests may not be plausible. However, there are ways in which lectures can become more interactive. It has been proven that active learning through interaction produces a better understanding of the material than passively learning through a traditional lecture.

The “illusion of knowledge” is the phenomenon in which you believe you are familiar with a subject because you have been exposed to it multiple times. Unfortunately, this style of learning does not actually allow material to become encoded in your long-term memory. This phenomenon has to do with the difference between active and passive learning. 

One effective way to interact with the material is to ask questions. However, in a lecture with over 100 people, this can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing for many. Additionally, professors often go through slides quickly, and there is not enough time to both get down all of the notes and formulate a question. In my opinion, directly asking the professor questions isn’t the only way to be engaged — simply thinking of questions to ask can be a useful exercise. This is why finding a way to allow all students to feel comfortable asking and thinking of questions during lectures is important.

In my UWP 1 class, my professor used Mentimeter, an online forum for students to ask questions anonymously. If professors would allot more pauses in between lecture slides to answer more Mentimeter questions, for example, it might give students more incentive to engage in this type of active learning.

Another way to improve interaction can be to use iClickers, an online question software, for more open-ended questions rather than multiple-choice questions. Prompting students with open-ended questions that make us think more deeply about the topics being presented could also increase participation.

At the end of the day, classes at UC Davis should increase opportunities to actively participate. Professors should look into different teaching strategies to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to engage in the material.


Written by: Audrey Boyce — afboyce@ucdavis.edu

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