Teaching Online: Using ‘Lecture Pauses’ Helps Retention


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Lecture Pause

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How can teachers do less, and by doing so, how would it impact our students during times of chaos and uncertainty?

During the upheaval of higher education in the spring of 2020, it became glaringly apparent that as instructors, we needed to adapt to our new circumstances, or our student’s education would suffer… (Arnold, 2020)

How best to use the technology?

How we teach impacts on our students, especially during a pandemic. Teaching during lockdown (and online) I suspect you and your colleagues have all experienced a steep learning curve.

Once the dust settled (somewhat), you may have had some time to reflect on how best to use technology to deliver remote education. Despite Zoom, Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams existing for several years, many schools were caught off-guard. Whatever the reason, it is important that all teachers reflect on what works, online.

Here are some of the things I’ve written about ‘teaching online’ during COVID:

  1. Remote Learning: The Evidence 
  2. 12 Tips for Teaching in a Virtual Environment
  3. A Teacher’s Gaze in Video Lectures Improves Learning
  4. Does Size Matter?
  5. How Can Teachers Teach Better, Online?
  6. Using Google Classroom During A Pandemic
  7. Creating A Supportive, Online Environment For Pupils
  8. Safeguarding Pupils: Teaching Pupils Using Zoom Video

Reexamining teaching methods

In my endeavour to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and learn how to improve my own teacher-delivery via camera, I found this new journal, Giving Students a Chance to Learn: Hitting Pause and Engaging Students, by Michelle Arnold of Utah State University.

Arnold writes, “The many restrictions on “traditional” teaching techniques have forced instructors across the nation to reexamine their methods and become more attentive to student learning.”

She references Dr Gail Rice’s book, Hitting Pause, 65 Lecture Breaks to Refresh and Reinforce Learning.

Rice advocates “A lecture pause occurs when instructor talk stops, and students are asked to think about their learning and what they will do with it.” Rice argues that “these lecture pauses not only benefit the students by allowing them a chance to relate and recall, but it also benefits the instructors.”

Pretty standard stuff for most teachers, right?

Aha! But how can we all do this efficiently and effectively via Zoom or Teams?

Lecture pauses help students focus!

“When students are given the opportunity to direct their own learning on a topic, make connections, and evaluate ideas in a safe and welcoming environment with their peers, their opportunities to succeed in the classroom and in the life increase.” Three categories of lecture pauses are presented:

  1. Starting pauses “grab attention, focus, and break preoccupation.”
  2. A midpause “allows the students to remember, apply, and understand what they have learned.”
  3. A closing pause “helps students accomplish but also because of when they occur.”

Arnold concludes, “Pauses can be used in the traditional classroom to help students focus, understand what they have been taught, apply it to their own lives, and have an overall more enjoyable learning experience. What is amazing about pauses is that they can accomplish these same things in the online/broadcast learning environment.”

Many of the retrieval practice methods I have published on this website you may use or already be familiar with. Arnold concludes with this very powerful question:

The challenge for us all is how to use ‘lecture pauses’ into our teaching, via the technology we choose to use.

Download Giving Students a Chance to Learn.


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