“Everything in moderation.”

“Everything in moderation.” That’s a phrase with which I grew up, most often attributed to my Mom. My brothers and I would want to sit for hours and play video games, but when Mom told us to turn it off and go outside to play, she’d say, “It is fun to play those, but everything in moderation. You can’t play them all day!” We’d want to raid the cookie jar, and somehow she’d always catch us before we had eaten too many. Again, there was that phrase, “Everything in moderation. Too many of those will ruin your appetite for dinner!”

I look back now, and not only am I appreciative to her for teaching us the lesson of moderation, but I also appreciate it because it applies to many other areas of my life, including teaching. A specific part of teaching that I feel needs moderation is lecturing one’s students.

Direction Road Arrow Traffic Sign One Way

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“Discourse. Soapbox. Spiel.” (Thesaurus.com, 2017)

Lecturing one’s students as a singular method of educating in the classroom is not an effective practice. According to Aleszu Bajak, journalist for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a study conducted in recent years found “that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods” (2014). As a teacher of any grade level of students, to present information solely through lecturing, you do your students a disservice, since the study mentioned above “indicates that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections” (Freeman et al., 2014) as opposed to just giving one’s “spiel” with little to no interaction within the classroom.

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Part of the reason why some students may not fare as well learning from the lecture method is that they may struggle with learning in general. As Dr. Okolo of Michigan State University writes:

In order to learn effectively from lectures, though, students must do more than pay attention.  They must engage in the cognitive processes needed to make sense of the lecture and to convert what they are learning into meaningful information that can be recalled and retrieved in the future… Add to these demands the problems often faced by students with disabilities, including memory difficulties, lack of background and vocabulary knowledge, and unfamiliarity with cognitive processes that could aid learning–and you can appreciate how difficult it can be for students to learn from one of the most commonly-used instructional practices (Okolo, 2017).

But this doesn’t mean that not all students can learn from lecturing; some students may need to employ specific strategies or tools to reap the benefits of type of teaching. For instance, all students, including those with learning disabilities, can benefit from good note taking during lectures.

(Platt, 2012)

How can teachers use moderation in this regard?

Considering the aspect of moderation may help, too. Here is one perspective on breaking up the monotony of a long, “soapbox” type of content delivery, as well as intentionally planning time for a connecting activity for the content about which you’ve just lectured.

(Let’s TEACH, 2016)

Yet another way to use lecture, but also to use other activities in order to ultimately increase student engagement and learning is Strategic Lecture. It includes lecture, as well as such activities as note taking, multimedia, and hands-on work, using formative assessment to guide a teacher’s planning and delivery (Hardin, 2013).


I think that all students in general education classrooms can learn from lectures. Lectures do serve a purpose, but they need to be used in moderation, and should not necessarily be completely abandoned as a teaching technique. Combining lecture and explanation with the presented knowledge put into action by your guidance of your students, and ultimately your students “taking flight” to use the knowledge you’ve given them for their own practice would be far more beneficial than merely teaching by lecture with very little student interaction. This particular model is the Gradual Release of Responsibility, but it goes far beyond “just lecturing”.

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Rather, during the first phase of instruction given by the teacher:

… the focused instruction phase of learning provides students with information about the ways in which a skilled reader, writer, or thinker processes the information under discussion. Typically, this is done through direct explanations, modeling, or think-alouds in which the teacher demonstrates the kind of thinking required to solve a problem, understand a set of directions, or interact with a text” (Fisher & Frey, 2014).

Using this model, a teacher could begin a lesson with a lecture type of explanation, set a purpose for her students’ learning, help them to apply the knowledge in an activity, and then let them try using what they have learned on their own to exhibit what was learned by the lecture in the first place.


She was right… Thanks, Mom! 

Again, I think of what my Mom said about using moderation. Even in the context of teaching, I think Mom was right: teachers, for the best success of all of your students, lecture in moderation! Do you agree?


Bajak, A. (2014, May 12). Lectures aren’t just boring, they’re Ineffective, too, study finds. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds

City of Seattle Community Tech. (2012). Teacher Helping Students Working At Computers In Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.photosforclass.com/search?text=teacher+helping+students

Direction Road Arrow Traffic Sign One Way [Photograph found in Max Pixel]. (2016). Retrieved from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Direction-Road-Arrow-Traffic-Sign-One-Way-438122 (Originally photographed 2016)

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2014). Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility, 2nd Edition. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/113006/chapters/Learning,-or-Not-Learning,-in-School.aspx

Freeman, S., Eddy, S., McDonough, M., Smith, M., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from http://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410

Great Moments in Teaching[Cartoon]. (2008). Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://www.facebook.com/ElementsOfElementary/photos/a.343862449078841.1073741830.284303925034694/381069845358101/?type=1&theater¬if_t=like Elements of Elementary

Hardin, S. (2013). Strategic Lecture. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://e3t.org/e3t-lesson-design/explanation/strategic-lecture.html

Let’s TEACH. (2016, January 24). Instructional Strategies — The Ten Plus Two Teaching Method. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2udPWz_3vg

Okolo, C., Dr. . (2017). Learning From Lectures. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://d2l.msu.edu/d2l/le/content/576255/viewContent/4999554/View

Platt, R. (2012, February 12). Rita on Two-Column Notes. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSxEGdUpY-U

The Gradual Release of Responsibility. (2017). Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/images/publications/books/fisher2013_fig1.1.gif

Thesaurus. (2017). Retrieved July 11, 2017, from http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/lecture?s=t