Below are suggestions for helping students to learn from your explanations and instructions in taught sessions. They may be particularly helpful to students for whom English is not their first language and/or who have difficulties related to short term memory or auditory processing speed.

Educational goalStrategy

To aid listening and note-taking.

To aid remembering and following spoken instructions.

  • Provide oral instructions as concisely as possible with an additional written summary (e.g. flow chart) as often as possible.
  • Check back with the whole group for understanding and provide the opportunity for follow up questions.

To support responding to ‘on the spot’ questioning.

  • Provide a short period for reflection after the question where people can then identify themselves as being ready to speak if they want to. Learn to ‘embrace the silence’.
  • Give students 30 seconds to prepare a combined reponse in pairs. This builds confidence and usually results in a better quality response. 
  • Use an e-voting tool like Mentimeter to enable students to respond to questions anonymously.  

To aid being asked to read ‘on the spot’ and then being asked to comment.

  • If the student has to be asked to do this encourage students to use highlighters, boxes and flagging and to avoid highlighting full sentences.
  • Provide a short period for reflection after the reading where people can then identify themselves as being ready to speak if they want to. Avoid choosing students to read aloud. 

To support remembering spelling and definitions of newly introduced words.

  • Provide students with a glossary of technical terms and a list of standardised notation in advance.
  • Pre-teach the definitions of key vocabulary and have them written and displayed somewhere for reference during the lecture. 

To aid the retention of related information when completing a practical task.

  • Encourage students to record the process on their phone or take a series of photographs. This can often be the best memory prompt for someone as it is multi-sensory and can be complemented by a written note.

To aid selecting pertinent information and then taking notes at the required speed.

  • Summarise, repeat and reinforce pertinent key points more frequently during lectures, give much more time in lectures for ‘catching up with notes’ – 15 seconds every 3-5 minutes and identify information which does not need writing down (i.e. information that can be referred back to on Panopto if required).

To aid interacting in a discussion/debate and keeping up with conversational flow.

  • Always try to have a formal or informal chairperson. This person can give short periods for reflection after the development of a key point where people can then identify themselves as being ready to speak if they want to.  Learn to ‘embrace the silence’.
  • See Initiating students into interactive learning.

To aid accurate identification of key points of a written question or task instruction at speed.

  • Give all learners opportunity to read the question or instructions and then ask for any questions. 
  • Encourage students to use highlighters, boxes and flagging and to avoid highlighting full sentences.

Active listening and learning

Mentimeter is an e-voting tool widely used at Imperial. It helps to convert lectures into active learning opportunities by requiring learners to respond anonymously and simultaneously to questions. This enables students and teachers to gauge, and respond to, their level of understanding.

Inclusive practice at Imperial

Using Mentimeter to promote deep learning with peers:

  1. The teacher displays a question using Mentimeter and students respond individually using their internet enabled device (phone, tablet, laptop).
  2. The teacher reveals all students' collated responses in a bar chart etc. to the whole class but doesn't tell students the correct answer.
  3. If more than 80% of the class have got the answer wrong, students are asked to discuss in pairs what they think the answers is and the reason why this is the case.
  4. Students resubmit their response to the original question as a pair.
  5. Generally there will be more correct responses. Students will have been given opportunity to articulate, justify, compare and refine their reasoning and will experience the quantitative and qualitative value of peer learning.

Filippos Filippidis, School of Public Health