North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP)

A blog for students funded by a cross institutional scheme through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to train a new generation of skilled researchers. Offering postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of the AHRC’s disciplines. All views are those of students and are not necessarily those of the NWCDTP.

The Lecturing Learning Curve (Shelley Farrar)


Looking back at the last term, I consider my increasing participation in departmental teaching to be a small achievement. I had already gained experience in human osteology lab demonstrations but guiding a small group of second year undergraduates through their lab classes has been a particular highlight. Yes, there were a few expecting to be spoon-fed information (to which they ended up disappointed), but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this type of teaching interaction and how engaged most of them were. Their confidence in asking questions was particularly impressive. As an undergraduate I really had to push myself to have the confidence to ask questions and (as I saw it then) risk being viewed as foolish. Looking at this from the other side I see how treasured those asking questions are for a teacher.

This kind of easy interaction was sorely missed when I gave my first lecture. I made sure I had time to prep, including eagerly designing diagrams and handouts. I was also determined to be lively and engaging, perfectly willing to resort to demonstrating bizarre variance in evolutionary locomotion with my own body if needs be. And I was mostly successful. What I did not expect was my drama background providing a problem. It took me a little while to realise the in-built fear of being unentertaining and the desire to put on a spectacular performance was not as much of an issue in this context. Being informative was more important. The lack of interaction made it difficult for me to measure whether I was sufficiently engaging. I cannot blame those listening as I am well aware that I often lose concentration after 20 minutes of listening. At the end, when the well thought out questions started, I realised I had been successful. I simply have not yet learnt to read the clues for this context having still unconsciously been looking for signs of a successful drama performance.

As problems go, I will admit it is a small one and I am happy that my first lecture went well. Noting how impressed I was when individuals ask questions and generally interact has increased my confidence in my own ability to start participating in the conversation at conferences and seminars (something I often shy away from). Seeing things from the other side has made me realise that most people are not as judgmental as I fear and are just happy to know someone is listening!


One comment on “The Lecturing Learning Curve (Shelley Farrar)

  1. nwcdtp
    April 9, 2015

    Yes, Shelly, I have experienced that 20 minute thing too. I’ve often pondered what the difference between attending the lecture and reading the chapter in the book is. I’ve noticed the lecturer (a) can cut out the preambles. (2) can by tone of voice or show where the emphasis in something lies. (3) can add a sharp, memorable anecdote/ example when they notice their audience struggling. I think (3) is the hardest for the lecturer to learn – when to keep going, when to stop, pause, ask for questions, reframe the whole thing etc. My favourite line from all the lectures I’ve heard? Law lecture, definition of murder, nature/meaning of death: ‘we don’t die all at once. We die in bits and pieces.’ Closely followed by sociology lecture: ‘Common sense: Rarely common. Seldom makes sense.’


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This entry was posted on April 9, 2015 by .
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