Answer to “Should I give students handouts and if so in what form?”


The use of handouts can increase the value of the lecture as a learning experience.  They can serve a number of functions and can provide


  • A framework of the lecture reinforcing the structure of the lecture and the areas addressed and helping the learner to see how one idea relates to another

  • Information e.g. a table or a diagram that you don’t want the student to have to copy during the lecture

  • Additional information not covered in the lecture and sources of reading or information.

  • Additional problems for the student to tackle.


Handouts can relieve some of the concerns students often feel when presented with large amounts of information


Studies have shown that students do not see handouts as discouraging further reading on a subject. 


Different types of handouts include

  • Outlines – a one page summary of the lecture

  • Interactive handouts with notes completed by the student during the lecture

  • Key information handouts including complex diagrams or figures

  • Full handouts of the content addressed in the lecture

  • Copies of PowerPoint slides


There are differences of opinion as to the use of handouts to support lectures.  Interactive handouts have been shown to be of more value than comprehensive handouts.  Some studies suggest that if handouts are provided students are encouraged to listen thoroughly to lectures, rather than simply trying to translate the lecturer’s words onto paper.



Brown, G., and Manogue, M (2001).  AMEE Medical Education Guide No 22: Refreshing lecturing: a guide for lectures.  Med Teach. 23:231-244.

Hartley, J., (1994).  Designing Instructional Text. London, Kogan Page 4th Edition.

Mclennan, MW., and Issaacs, G (2002).  Aus Vet J Vol 80, No 10, October 2002.