Five lessons learned from teaching.

Learning is hard. Teaching is even harder.

I recently taught a course on the pedagogy and didactics of sports training and learned five lessons.

Here they are.

Preparation is key

Preparation is everything. You have to know what you're talking about if you want your students to learn.

The amount and level of preparation differs from one person to another. I like to prepare using keywords. Those keywords guide me; they are the hooks that remind me what to say. The actual words I use differ from one presentation to another, but the key points always remain.

This level of preparation gives me the structure I need as well as the flexibility and spontaneity to keep it natural.

Reserve discussion time

If you're like me, you're always short on time. However well you timeboxed your presentation, there are ten minutes worth of content left when the timer hits the one minute mark.

Instead of stuffing your presentation with information, focus on the main topic. What is the key point you want your listeners to take home? When you found it, cut away the noise. This might leave you with 45 minutes worth of material for a 60-minute talk. That's OK. There will always be an unforeseen question or discussion that fills the empty space.

If you're nervous about ending fifteen minutes early, keep some of that extra material in your presentation. You can decide to use it if you have time left, or skip it if you're short on time.

Interact with your audience

Humans have an attention span of somewhere between five and ten minutes. After that, the amount of people that will continue to listen to you is likely to drop fast.

The solution? Interact more with your audience. Split content into five to ten minute chunks and fill the gaps with those interactions.

For example, let your students think about a question in silence for a few minutes. Let them discuss content in small groups. When teaching online, breakout rooms are a perfect way to organize discussion sessions. It lets your students engage with the content right after they first heard it.

Always ask yourself the question: "who should be the one learning, the student or the teacher"? Using new information immediately is the only way to transfer it to your long-term memory.

Ask for feedback

While your students should do the learning during a presentation, you can still get a learning moment for yourself.

How? Ask for feedback at the end of the presentation.

Ask your students to write down what they learned. Ask them what topic they found the most interesting. Or the least. Ask them about your performance: did they like how you presented?

Remember that you only get honest feedback when there is a good relation between your audience and you. A good relationship with your students is the foundation for content to stick. It takes a while for a relationship to form, so be patient and invest in it.


As a final remark, remember to have fun while presenting!

Think about the surprising interactions you will have with your students. Think about the fact that you're learning them something they can use for the rest of their lifes.

If you enjoy presenting, your enthusiasm will transfer to your audience and all of the above points will be much easier.