University of Nebraska Medical Center

5 Engagement Activities for Lecture Sessions

With all the recent conversation on campus and in the medical education literature about active learning and student engagement, we can easily be overwhelmed with terminology, confused by what is considered best practice, and paralyzed by fear of incorporating a new technique into our teaching.

Here are five quick tips for incorporating an active learning component into your lecture:

1. Incorporate Case Discussions

Students want to hear about real patients with real challenges.  Pose some “what would you do next?” or “can you predict the results of the test?” throughout your discussion to engage learners in further dialog.  Show them a radiograph, photo, or lab results to enhance the experience. *

2. Tell a Story

When content is new to students, the framework for a story is familiar, making it more accessible to a novice learner.  Add the personal and emotional components associated with an individual and his or her loved ones, and you’ve activated a different portion of the students’ brain than is used to store declarative facts received during lecture sessions.

3. Encourage Movement

While the lecture hall in your setting may not be conducive to major physical movements, you can exercise the body by tossing a ball or other device into the room, requiring student to stand up and look behind them, or playing games like Simon Says.  Imagine a setting in which you engage students in a quick game of Simon Says that also provides a review of content.  “Simon Says put your hands on your head if the I in RICE stands for ice.”  The task of listening for you to say “Simon says” and to connect that with correct statements only is a challenge!

4. Activate a Different Part of the Brain

Exercise the brain by changing modes periodically.  At the beginning of the lecture, access prior knowledge by asking students to list everything they already know about your topic.  If it’s completely new to them, ask them to write down questions they have or make predictions for how this topic connects to what they’ve been studying.  During your lecture, ask students to draw a picture or diagram of the content you’ve covered so far.  Ask them to write a limerick or joke about the content.  As a summarizing activity, ask students to write down the five most important facts from the lecture, write a potential test item, or make note of lingering questions they should revisit during their study.

5. Start with a Question

Pose a question at the beginning of your lecture for students to ponder as they learn.  Refer back to this question occasionally by indicating when you have given a clue or provided insight that should help them get closer to a correct response.  Keeping that initial task fresh in your audience’s mind will remind them to take a break from notetaking to apply what they are learning to the problem you’ve posed.

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*Always do so in consideration of patient privacy.


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