Though your fall term may already be in full swing, you may have noticed that the students who once listened to your lectures attentively now seem more distracted and disengaged. Or, perhaps you’re a month or so into a new teaching job and you recognize a need to refine the process you use to prepare your talks.

If you find yourself in these or similar scenarios, you may want to review some suggestions that can help you present your course material with maximum effectiveness. In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, Marilla Svinicki and Wilbert McKeachie offer their suggestions for lecture preparation. Review our summary below and try out these tips when you plan your next lecture:


  • Don’t write out the entire lecture; in the same vein, don’t rely too heavily on notes. If you provide yourself with that much information, you’ll be tempted to focus too closely on what you’ve written, rather than on your students. (If you lose the connection with them, they will soon tune out.) Instead, consider creating an outline with “cue words” or questions that call to mind your key points.
  • Presentation software can prove both engaging and beneficial if you use your lecture aids thoughtfully. Include an outline, as well as the key points you want to call to students’ attention. However, do not spend the entire class period reading off the screen; that’s as engaging to your audience as reading off of a sheet of paper for the entire hour. (For additional suggestions on incorporating presentation software and other tools into your classroom experience, see Cathy Scott’s post on using technology to enhance your teaching.)
  • To help you manage your time, include time cues next to each portion of your outline. For example:

11:00 I. Class-opening activity

11:05 II. [Section one of lecture]

11:20 II. [Section two of lecture]

11:35 III. [Section three of lecture]

11:50 IV. Conclusion/summary of key points

11:45 V. Student questions

11:50 VI. Class ends

  • If you intend to incorporate discussion, multimedia, the use of technology tools, or other student engagement activities into your lecture, place color-coded directions denoting where and when you hope to use those points, tools, and activities into your outline as well.
  • Be sure to budget time at the end of the class for students’ questions. This “extra” time following the lecture also allows you the opportunity to elaborate on a point you hadn’t previously intended to cover, and it also gives you a bit of “insurance” should you spend more time on a topic or concept than you’d originally planned.
  • Consider sharing your lecture outline with your students. They can use the outline to organize their notes and follow along with your lecture. (61-62)


Reference: McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 14th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


How do you prepare for lectures? Share your tips, thoughts, and insights in the comments section below.

Seeking added inspiration?  Read “Say ‘Goodbye’ to the Boring Lecture,” a post from Bridgett McGowen-Hawkins, Senior Professional Educator, Cengage Learning Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development and Consulting.