Content Types

Focus, position and movement

In this spotlight we look at some ideas particularly relevant with large lectures regarding the position and movement of the lecturer. These thoughts are introduced by Dr David Berman:

Different Delivery Spots in Lectures

In the following video, Dr James Busfield explains an example of the above with one the techniques he uses to help keep the attention of the audience

Large Lecture: Lessons from Actors

Prof Franco Vivaldi describes some simple suggestions he received from actors that he has found useful when lecturing to large audiences.

Thoughts on smaller groups

Whilst the above ideas are given from the point of view of large lectures, similar considerations can be relevant to other sessions as well. In laboratory or clinical teaching sessions for example, or exercise classes, the teacher is often moving around the room supporting different small groups, often demonstrating and helping individuals within the group. Considering your position relative to the group can ensure that everyone can see; considering where you look can ensure that everyone in the small group is included and you can better gauge understanding. For small class situations such as seminars or feedback, the position of the teacher/facilitator can alter power dynamics in the room: are they standing up separated from the class and /or the focus for attention in the room? Are they at a table joining a discussion? As David Berman mentioned in his video, as a teacher you have choices that you can use to subtly alter a session to help you achieve your preferred outcome or to direct the learning in a particular way.

Further

If you wish to reflect on your position, mobility, movement or focus of attention within a lecture you may wish to consider recording your teaching for your own private use. Whilst often embarrassing to watch initially, after a short while it can help become aware of your style and preferences as well as anything you may wish to change. Major lecture rooms can often do this automatically for you and personal capture or mini-cameras are often available for borrow (e.g. speak to AV or the E-Learning Unit). Teaching observations by others, usually a part of practice and taking place in any case, can be utilised by asking the observer to specifically comment on this part of your teaching and provide any suggestions.

One area which some lecturers wish to develop and gain confidence in is their voice in a large lecture situation. Becoming more confident in speaking to a large group can then help one to take advantage of the choices available, and some of the techniques are similar to those outlined above. There are workshops and courses available on the topic: e.g. A254 Train Your Voice for Teaching.

In many large theatres there are wireless microphones available and whilst it is worth working on projecting ones voice to have that ability, it is also very useful to take the time to make sure you know how the equipment works and what is available to give yourself that choice. It may be that additional equipment can be easily borrowed from central AV colleagues. In situations where you do wish to or need to use a microphone (e.g. recording, students using a loop set-up, overflow rooms) then using a wireless microphone frees you from the lectern. As noted in the videos above, you need not be fixed to the ‘stage’ area either. Just because it is a lecture, doesn’t mean that you can’t join the audience or move into the audience if appropriate for a time.

Prof Vivaldi noted some techniques to help you vary eye contact, and Dr Busfield’s method can help to vary position.

Acknowledgements

Spotlight compiling and commentary: Giles Martin

With thanks to the following contributors whose ‘ideas’ videos have been used:

  • David Berman
  • James Busfield
  • Franco Vivaldi

Featured image: © Queen Mary, University of London. All rights reserved