Answer to “How can I make my lecture an active rather than a passive experience?”


One criticism of a lecture is that a student's attention may drop off after 10 minutes.  Making a lecturer a more interactive experience for the student can increase the effectiveness of a lecture.  It can maintain the student’s interest, encourage the student to reflect and lead to more durable learning.  Students can be encouraged to think about how new information compares to what they already know and about the significance of what they are learning.  The good lecturer engages the student.  Active learning promotes attention and retention.


Specific techniques successfully used to make a lecture a more active learning experience include


  • At the beginning, pose a problem through e.g. a clinical vignette or a newspaper cutting.

  • Every 10-15 minutes pause and ask a question.  Student are asked to answer individually and then share their answer with their neighbour.  An audience response system can be used (See Q7)
    When asking a question consider the purpose of asking the question and its role in relation to the expected learning outcomes.

  • Videoclips can be introduced during the lecture and help to maintain the students’ interest

  • Invite the student at the end of the lecture to indicate for them the most important message of the lecture


The introduction of student activities, however, reduces the time available for the lecturer to explain the subject.  It has been shown however that students learn as much in an interactive lecture as in a traditional lecture and are more motivated.


Gulpinar, M.A., & Yegen, B.C., (2005).  Interactive learning for meaningful learning in large groups Med Teach, 27 7, 2005, 590-594.

Ko, L.N., Rana, J., and Burgin, S (2018).  Teaching and Learning Tips 5: Making lectures more “active”.  International Journal of Dermatology 2018, 57, 351-354.

Van Dijk, L.A., Van Den Berg, G.C., and VAN KEULEN, H. (2001).  Interactive lectures in engineering education.  Eur.J. Eng. Ed., 2001, Vol 26, No. 1, 15-28.

Ventura, S., Onsman, A., (2009).  The use of popular movies during lectures to aid the teaching and learning of undergraduate pharmacology.  Medical Teacher 31: 662-664.