Interactive lectures

Interactive lectures


Harry Roy (2003) used pre- and post-testing to assess two methods of teaching mathematical problems associated with genetics to small classes (10 to 40 students):

* studio classes – ‘a mixture of student exercises, instructor coaching, and sometimes laboratory experiments, draw their inspiration from the idea of interactive learning and generally take advantage of modern technology to delivery instructional materials’ (p. 3). Some materials did not lend themselves to interactive delivery, so traditional, lecture-style sessions were necessary.
* interactive lecture demonstration – students are asked to predict the outcome of a demonstration. The demonstration is then conducted with discussion of results and presentation of relevant theory.

The measured gain in learning was significantly greater in the studio classes. Class averages for the studio method were higher: 85% vs 74%. The average for the studio class also had a lower standard deviation (10% vs 21%). These indicate that the studio classes had aided the poorer students.

The author had hoped to find no difference between the teaching methods so that larger classes could be effectively accommodated by the interactive lecture demonstration method, allowing fewer deliveries of the unit each year! However, his findings did not support this hope. Although he suggests that his implementation of the interactive lecture might have been sub-optimal, ethical considerations for the students have driven him to retain the studio method.

Roy, H. (2003). Studio vs interactive lecture demonstration – effects on student learning. Bioscene 29(1): 3-6. Paper available online.


1. It could certainly be argued that the findings of Evans & Omaha Boy (1997) and Roy (2003) were due to the teaching methods better suiting their particular styles. That surely cannot be a criticism for their adopting the methods! It is probably true that their methods would not come as readily as lecturing to staff who are used to lecturing but appropriate professional development might bridge that gap.
2. The argument that other teachers could do just as well or better through lecturing might be true of some individuals but is generally unsupported by the literature.
3. On the other hand, it is probably true that lecturing is generally easier and less threatening to the teacher.
4. Whilst noting that these studies were of small classes, there are ways and means of employing these methods with larger cohorts of students.