Interactive Lectures Using Top Hat

How to facilitate interactive lectures in large classrooms

Interactive Lectures

Students often have a mixed, if not negative, opinion of large lecture-based courses. In 1987, Wulff, Nyquist, and Abbott wrote the article "Student Perception of Large Classes," in which they documented the following student perspectives of these courses to include:

  • Lessened individual accountability,
  • Impersonal classroom environment,
  • Increased now and distractions from other students,
  • Lack of instructor-student interaction and 
  • Fewer opportunities for questions and discussion.

In 2017,  Cash, Letargo, Graether, and Jacobs followed up with the article "An Analysis of the Perceptions and Resources of Large University Classes," which added to this list to include:

  • Assessment opportunities are limited to multiple-choice-based midterms and finals
  • Difficulty asking questions
  • Impersonal and anonymous
  • Greater potential for distractions from peers

Interactive lectures are one way of addressing these concerns. They involve facilitating quick engagements with students during a traditional lecture session. The goal of these engagements is to:

  • Aid students in the application of knowledge being presented
  • Check student understanding and comprehension
  • Increase student engagement
  • Maintain students' attention
  • Build a sense of community among students
  • Aid in a student's sense of belonging

The techniques presented here were selected due to their ease of planning and implementation, ability to be facilitated in large lecture halls, and ability to aid in the processing of the presented content.

The aim of teaching is not only to transmit information but also to transform students from passive recipients of other people’s knowledge into active constructors of their own and others’ knowledge. The teacher cannot transform without the student’s active participation. Teaching is fundamentally about creating the pedagogical, social, and ethical conditions under which students agree to take charge of their learning, individually and collectively. - Christensen, Garvin & Sweet (1991)


  • Two-Minute Question-Development Talks: an activity in which student pairs share responses to two questions about their out-of-class work. What was the main thing you learned from the assignment? What questions do you have after completing the assignment?
  • Vote-Discuss-Revote (VDR): an activity that uses multiple-choice questions presented during a lecture to help measure student understanding and facilitate deeper learning.  Throughout the lecture, the instructor pauses to present a question to apply the presented concept.
  • Think/Pair/Share: an activity in which students respond to a question posed by the instructor. They reflect individually, share their thoughts with a partner, and then develop their shared response with the class.
  • Support a Statement: an activity that asks students to gather and use evidence from the lecture to support a response to a statement provided by the instructor.
  • One-Sentence Summary: an activity that asks students to summarize the most important ideas from a lecture by crafting them into a single sentence.
  • 3-2-1: an activity in which students are asked to write three things they learned from a lecture, two things they found particularly interesting, and one question they still have after the lecture.


  • Christensen, C. R., Garvin, D. A., and Sweet, A. (1991). Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School.
  • Wulff, D. H., Nyquist, J. D., and Abbott, R. D. (1987). Students’ Perceptions of Large Classes. New Directions for Teaching and Learning.

Keywordsactive, engagement, engage, student, lecture, activities, active, large course, large lecture, large enrollment, pedagogy, lecture hall, large classroomDoc ID128228
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2023-05-11 08:43:45Updated2024-04-19 14:51:55
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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