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Enhancing Lecture Pedagogy Through Targeted Breaks

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Useful Teaching Techniques in Mechanics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.547.1 - 13.547.15



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Paper Authors

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Benson Tongue University of California-Berkeley

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Enhancing Lecture Pedagogy through Targeted Breaks

Abstract In this paper an approach to lecturing, that of Targeted Breaks, will be introduced. These are offered as a means to enhance the traditional lecture format so as to increase student comprehension, interest and the course’s level of perceived worth. Targeted Breaks offer a multiplicity of benefits and these will be delineated in the text. Particular examples will be presented as well, with sufficient detail to allow interested professors to create their own personalized versions.

Keywords: lectures, pedagogy, learning


In recent years the lecture format has taken a bit of a beating. One hears it denigrated as a non-interactive learning venue that pales when compared to smaller-scaled, active learning environments and the assertion is made that good teaching can’t occur in situations for which the student/teacher ratio is high. Furthermore, as is well known, just such a high ratio has become common in many of our universities. Administrators, eager to achieve cost efficiencies and faced with limited instructional budgets, have often chosen to increase class size, changing the dynamic between lecturer and student as the number of students moves from 20 to 40 to 100 and so forth. Once the ratio becomes “large,” an argument can be made that the class can be super-sized, that is, made “huge,” with no real loss. The contention is that 50 to 1 and 200 to 1 are equally non-involving for the students and so why not go bigger?

If no thought is given to the problem, the result can be a process in which the student does indeed feel cut off from the process of learning, a passive observer of a self-contained performance. If the lecture is viewed as simply one man or woman standing in front of a sea of faces and presenting “the facts,” then the endeavor certainly becomes dubious as an example of a rich learning experience. In such a case is there much difference between this form of “live” lecture and a pre-recorded lecture shown on a screen or computer monitor? The author thinks not. A lack of interaction between student and professor will act to reduce what was a rich give and take to something that can be well approximated by a webcast.

In the author’s opinion this situation poses a serious threat to the professoriate. If it becomes accepted that one can obtain a similar education by simply viewing a pre-recorded webcast then the existence of the individual professor becomes somewhat optional. Why spend money for a professor when one can simply buy the complete set of “Dynamics for Engineers” and show it at regularly scheduled times?

An argument that could be used against lectures, that they are poor vehicles for knowledge transmission [2], misses the fact that the real beauty and power of a lecture isn’t simply the passing of facts. As Lowman [3] writes, ‘The lecture is probably most effective at motivating

Tongue, B. (2008, June), Enhancing Lecture Pedagogy Through Targeted Breaks Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3295

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