Reporter 405, 30 June 1997

The greenhouse effect - in just a minute, please

A Leeds lecturer is developing a new teaching and learning technique, the 'one-minute lecture', to concentrate students' minds and cut out the 'waffle-factor' from essays and exams.

Developed by Dr Terry Kee in the University's Chemistry department, the technique is designed to help students to focus their minds and get across complex ideas, such as the greenhouse effect, in a structured way. "We were finding that some of the students kept going off the argument in their exams and were missing out on valuable points," said Dr Kee. "Getting them to explain complex information in one minute forces them to concentrate on the main points – before filling in the detail."

The one-minute lecture can also be used to improve other skills such as giving oral presentations or briefings – any time a message needs to be put across succinctly and effectively.

The lecture forms part of a broader project focusing students' minds on their skills rather than simply regurgitating large volumes of information without thinking. In one session, they had to make a one-minute presentation on colour from a four-page essay they had written. "I panicked at first," said one student, "but you soon get used to it and it's improved my essay technique enormously – it's fun too."

Dr Kee has been seconded to develop the one-minute lecture as a teaching tool as part of a £253,000 Higher Education Funding Council of England 'Improve' project.

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