Undergraduates kick off a new academic year on the first day of class in a Nutritional Sciences 132: Nutrition Today course taught by senior lecturer Peter Anderson in Agricultural Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 2, 2011. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

This is something that comes with experience and learning. A professor may spend his or her life being a terrible professor because he or she cannot engage the students or keep their attention. Consider the information below and see if you can apply it to the way you teach during a lecture.

The way we learn in class is flawed, so the professor must work around it 

Students are learning how to cram information into their mind, instead of learning how to use their brain. It is the reason that so many seemingly dumb people have degrees. It’s because they have learnt to cram information into their memory and then recall it in tests. The thing is that there is an easier way to pass tests than this.

If you are a student, then you must learn to use your brain. Your mind retains a massive amount of information for an incredibly long time. When you are in your sixties, you will still remember the faces of your school friends if they saunter by your car window.

If you are a lecturer, then you can teach people how to learn without having to cram information into their minds, and then they will have an easier time listening and learning from you. Do it with concepts as oppose to simply barking information for a full lecture. For example, do not start by telling the class what the Germans did to renew the faith in their monetary system. Instead, explain the concept of how money has an imaginary value, and once the student knows that, then declaring bank holidays and renaming your currency would seem like common sense and it would be easy to see why the Germans did it. It turns dry facts into something more dynamic and easy to understand.

Teaching people to remember and recall

People in the Special Forces and in FBI in the USA and people in MI5 and MI6 in the UK are taught to take a glance at a room, close their eyes and recite every item in it. They can glance at a room, walk away and then tell you accurately how many people are in a room, including where they are and what they are holding. This is not because they are memory geniuses. It is because their brains absorbed the knowledge and they simply recalled it.

If you are a student, you can do the same with your studies. Every book you read and every lecture you hear is stored in your brain. If you try to recall specific information, you will suffer. If you try to remember whole concepts, then a world of information will open up to you. You will start remembering things you didn’t even know you knew.

If you are a lecturer, then teach a student how to recall things instead of just teaching them the information. Give them small lessons on how to pull information from their minds. It will help them to remain more active and alert to the things you are trying to teach.

Give your students an example of how concepts will aide learning

It is up to you as a teacher to explain concepts to your class, instead of just pushing information/data on them. You also need to convince your class (at least a little) that learning a concept (e.g. how things work) is going to help them internalize the data surrounding it more easily. If you are able to convince students to start absorbing concepts as a means of learning, then they will become better learners and remain more engaged. You may have to convince them of the benefits of this in order to get the most out of them. So, you can convince them of the benefits of learning concepts first with the little student based example set out below.


You seek guidance for cell biology because you are struggling on the subject. You read a few pages on cell biology, attend a few classes, and then try a practice test online.

You may remember the answer to two out of every ten questions, so write them down and come away feeling pretty disappointed in yourself. So, you change tactics, and go back to the test vowing to recall the concepts behind cell biology as oppose to just snippets of information that you have been cramming.

You recall the entire concept, from the beginning. A cell is what, does what, where, how, why, in what manner, etc. Suddenly you start spouting a whole lot of information that you weren’t aware you knew. Sure, you may have forgotten how to spell mitochondria, but suddenly you remember what it does and why because in your mind it functions as a whole (as per a concept you learned).

You have another look at your test and you are suddenly able to answer a few more questions. The better you get at recalling concepts, the better you become at taking tests. It is like being asked to name all the parts of a car. It becomes a lot easier if you remember how a car starts, moves and stops, rather than just trying to sit there listing car parts.

Author bio: Jilly  Monroe, UCLA student , freelance writer at  proessaywriting.com .



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