July 9, 2004, by Teaching at Nottingham

Explaining complex concepts

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Liz Sockett: “One of the things that is very important when you lecture a subject like this is that you have drawn models that keep repeating. If you see the visual aids that I use, a lot of time was spent creating some simple models that I kept coming back to.

“Although it sounds a little pedantic, it is something that you need to do where you are dealing with something quite complex.

“Early on in the lecture I showed them the real protein sequence of a prion and I showed them a real folded molecule of a prion which is important to show them, but you can’t really use that to teach the principles then later on of how these things work.

“Having simple PowerPoints with an orange splodge with a spike attached to it and some blue splodges that change shape is very important to the understanding. What I am trying to lay down for these kids is both an instant understanding and a confidence that they’ve got the model to go back to.

“You see in my PowerPoints these diagrams come up again and again with the same membrane, with the same protein in there and I’m telling them early on that humans get this disease naturally, then I am telling them that here is an infectious version of this disease coming in from animals.

“I am reinforcing the point that it is all the same process – but it is quite a complicated process.

“The key things are not to try to control the students but trying to think about what they know already and what you are going to tell them.

“So that was my first starting point here. This is a new lecture, I had to write it. I thought right, these students have had 32 hours of microbiology. What am I safe that they know? What do I think they half know or half remember? Can I help them rehearse what they do know as I go along?

“And then, what new things am I telling them and how challenging are they to what they have already learnt? Will this make them less confident of what they have learnt because some of it is slightly different or will it make them more confident?”

Liz Sockett
School of Biology

This video was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection.

Posted in LecturesTeaching