“Isn’t that what we’re trying to do?” he asked. “We’re trying to create a mystery our students [must solve].”
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Explore This IssueFebruary 2018
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He suggested lecturers should in fact consider a Law and Order method of instruction. “Establishing those rises and falls is really what keeps people’s attention,” he said. “In our case, that body at the beginning sets the tone for whatever it is we’re trying to teach. What’s the big question we have to get to by the end?”
One option: Rheum4Science offers Web-based modules on basic science designed to do a better job of engaging learners. Each one is based on a case, takes just 15–20 minutes and includes immediate feedback for users, Dr. Marston said.
“The concept behind these modules is that they’re targeted,” she said. “These aren’t long, lecture-based modules. They’re targeted at a particular need, a particular topic.”
Sheetal Desai, MD, professor of rheumatology at the University of California, said one day she arrived early before giving her lecture and she sat in the back as the preceding lecture wrapped up. Students were busy on their iPads sending emails, googling things, buying stuff on Amazon—in other words, engaged with “anything but the lecture.”
She realized something had to change to meet the needs of a different generation of learners. She said she now loves giving lectures based on the TED Talk style, the series of short, engaging lectures by passionate speakers that run no more than 18 minutes.
The central tenet of TED Talks is that “when adults learn anything, under any circumstances, their emotions will be involved,” she said. The elements include storytelling, telling the audience something “brilliant and new,” focusing on a key message while keeping it short and having a conversation with the audience.
“The audience isn’t passive, sitting back and listening to a 50–60 minute lecture,” Dr. Desai said. “The audience is an engaged group of learners.”
Thomas R. Collins is a freelance writer living in South Florida.