50 Alternatives To Lecturing

by TeachThought Staff

Ed note: This post is promoted by SEU’S online masters in education programs. SEU simply asked us to write about how learning is changing and the updated kinds of things teachers need to know, and to let you know about their program. So here we are.

As teachers, when we lecture, we have the best of intentions. We have a concept we want the class to understand, so we stand and explain it to them. We give them background. Offer details. Anticipate and pre-empt common misconceptions. Illuminate the more entertaining bits. Emphasize the nuance.

So explaining things isn’t “bad,” so how about beginning with some clarification. Talking is not lecturing–it’s talking. Talking with students and expecting them to respond meaningfully isn’t lecture–that’s accountable talk, which itself is close to a Socratic dialogue or Paideia seminar. Explaining an idea verbally, especially if being done to clarify a context or history of circumstance–can be a powerful tool if used expertly.

Everyone loves a story, and unless you’re awful, your students probably like you and want to hear from you. But you can’t “give knowledge.” Or “verbally annotate” discovery and inquiry. Clearly this thinking comes from a place of constructivism, so it’s slanted that way. Lecture likely has a place in education. In the background knowledge-building phase of learning, for example.

Or in a “flipped classroom” setting where the “lecture” is designed to be consumed at the student’s own pace (using viewing strategies, for example).

Or when students have mastered a core set of understandings, and are ready–in unison–to hear something from an honest-to-goodness expert who only has an hour to unload what he/she knows. In these cases, when…

  • All students are similarly motivated
  • All students have mastered certain “listening strategies”
  • All students have strong note-taking skills, and can adapt those strategies for a variety of content, delivery speed, and so on
  • All students have a similar background knowledge

…then lecture can be moderately effective, but even then it depends on what we mean by “effective.” (Prince 2004)

The List of Alternatives To Lecture

So then, the list. This is an interesting post to write, because a large part of our content is to provide alternatives to lecture. In that way, our site at large could be seen as a compilation of alternatives to lecturing. But for those educators that’d like to see a kind of index all gathered in one place, with certain links to more in-depth analyses elsewhere, this post might help scratch that itch. This is a long list. The idea is to see a lot of awesome possibilities in one place, not write a book.

A few notes:

1. This is a mix of learning models and literacy strategies that can be used to accomplish what we hope a lecture might–“give information” and “promote understanding.” Not every one is a perfect replacement for what a “good lecture” is, but most, in spirit and function, are close.

2. Some of the ideas don’t have links–we’ll try to go back and add them. Suggest some in the comments if you know of a good one. We may go back and add brief definitions links to great content that then clarifies and extends these items with thinking, frameworks, strategies, and tools, because some are admittedly confusing in name-only. We were going to include several videos and frameworks, but that makes the post clumsy and slow-loading on smaller mobile devices. If you get curious and/opr confused and we still haven’t clarified something you’d like to know, either ask in the comments, or try keyword searching on your own.

3. If you look at this list as a whole, it’s clear education is either changing, or has a slew of tools it’s ignoring in not changing.

50 Alternatives To Lecturing

Learning Models

1. Self-directed learning

2. Learning through play

3. Scenario-based learning

4. Game-based learning

5. Project-based learning [Grow with TeachThought PD PBL Workshops]

6. Peer-to-Peer instruction

7. School-to-school instruction (using Skype in the classroom, for example)

8. Learning through projects

9. Problem-based learning

10. Challenge-based learning

11. Inquiry-based learning [Grow with TeachThought PD Inquiry Workshops]

12. Mobile learning

13. Gamified learning (gamification)

14. Cross-curricular projects

15. Reciprocal Teaching


16. “Flipped-class” learning

17. Face-to-Face Driver blended learning

18. Rotation blended learning

19. Flex Blended Learning

20. “Online Lab” blended learning

21. Sync Teaching

23. HyFlex Learning

24. Self-guided MOOC

25. Traditional MOOC

26. Competency-Based Learning

27. Question-based learning

Literacy Strategies

28. Write-Around

29. Four Corners

30. Accountable Talk

31. RAFT Assignments

32. Fishbowl

33. Debate

34. Gallery Walk

35. Text Reduction

36. Concentric Circles

37. Traditional Concept-Mapping (teacher-given strategy–“fishbone” cause-effect analysis, for example)

38. Didactic, Personalized Concept Mapping (student designed and personalized for their knowledge-level and thinking patterns)

39. Mock Trial

40. Non-academic video + “academic” questioning

41. Paideia Seminar

42. Symposium

43. Socratic Seminar

44. QFT Strategy [Grow with TeachThought PD QFT Inquiry Workshops]

45. Concept Attainment

46. Directed Reading Thinking Activity

47. Paragraph Shrinking

48. FRAME Routine

49. Jigsaw Strategy


50. Content-Based Team-Building Activities

51. Learning Simulations

52. Role-Playing

53. Bloom’s Spiral

54. Virtual Field Trip

55. Physical Field Trip

56. Digital Scavenger Hunt

57. Physical Scavenger Hunt

58. What? So What? What Now? (See also here.)

adapted image attribution flickeringbrad; previously published at TeachThought.com


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