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Less is More

A 1984 study  by Russell et al. observed lectures in which 90%, 70% and 50% of the sentences revealed new information, and it was found that students learned and retained the lecture information better the lower the level of new content. In each case the remaining time was filled by restating, reinforcing and relating the material to the students’ prior learning. It is not how much is delivered but how much is understood and retained that is most important, and the lecturer should not be afraid to cut down on quantity and focus on making sure that principles and concepts are understood, and that learning actually takes place.

Some ways to reduce quantity but make sure the material is covered:

  • Flipping the learning (see above)
  • Provide readings to cover the topic, with questions to help identify the key aspects
  • Give an outline and some guiding questions before a lecture
  • Provide background information and further reading on your intranet or via links to the internet
  • Use an online discussion forum for further discussion.


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