Two of the most common teaching modes are the lecture and discussion (or variations on those themes). Each of them have advantages and disadvantages (see below) and the trick is to be able to discern which method is most appropriate fo achieving your learning goals.


For a list of the advantages and disadvantages of lectures, see this.

For twenty suggestions for making lectures more participatory, see here.

Slides from Mano Singham's presentation on giving better lectures can be seen here.

Research into speech communication also gives insights into the pitfalls that exist in lecturing and how to avoid them.

This site gives some good hints for how to teach large classes.


For information on the advantages and disadvantages of discussions , see this.

Two good articles on how to get good discussions going are The Dreaded Discussion: Ten Ways to Start by Peter Frederick and Effective Classroom Discussions by William E. Cashin.

It is important that the instructor realize that there are different types of discussions requiring different approaches to succeed. Sequencing questions judiciously and avoiding some of the common errors in questioning will also make your discussions run smoothly and more productively.

The Seminar. What exactly is its purpose? How do you communicate its value to students? How can you run it so that the students get the most out of it? This somewhat idiosyncratic article, written in 1974 by Michael Kahn, provides some thought-provoking ideas on the various forms that seminars take and what we should be seeking when we run a seminar.

Flipping the classroom

A technique that is becoming popular is to take what used to be usually done in class (say a lecture) and what was done as homework and 'flip' them. The thinking behind this is that students can listen to a lecture on their own but they are more likley to benefit from their peers and instructor when they are working on their assignments. So why not switch them around? However there are things that instructors should do to make this methods more successful, as suggested here and here.