The Lecturing Learning Curve (Shelley Farrar)

by | Apr 9, 2015 | Uncategorised | 0 comments


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!