If you're a teacher who is used to just speaking at your students and want to break yourself of the habit, here's an easy experiment for you to try in your next class:
1) Look over your lesson plan, and pick out one thing that is ambiguous, unknown, open to interpretation, or otherwise has no "right" side or answer. (Example in a biology class: the definition of the term "life".)
2) Design an open-ended question about the thing you chose. (Continuing the above example: "How would you define the term life?")
3) At some point in your lecture, ask the question to your class, and wait for the students to try to answer. If it takes a few seconds before you see any raised hands, that means they're actually thinking about your question, which is a good sign (or it means they're asleep, which is a sign that you've been lecturing for too long). Sometimes students will raise their hand to elaborate on (or even disagree with) a previous student's answer; encourage this, as you're creating an interactive dialogue among your students. If one student gives an answer and no one else feels like adding to it, challenge it yourself; play devil's advocate. But if at all possible, confine yourself to a role as moderator; if you chose a good question, your students will do your work for you.
You might notice a few things about this method:
- It gives your own voice a much-needed rest in the middle of a long lecture :-)
- Your students will actually be paying close attention.
- Your students will actually be thinking. In class, no less.
- As often as not, one of your students will say something particularly insightful that makes you think.
If you try it and like the results, increase the number of questions. Personally, my classes are usually about two hours, and I shoot for a goal of at least three discussion-questions per class. But if you're not used to it, you can work up to this one question at a time.