It is not sufficient to have planned your lecture content in a clear structure if your students do not recognise where they are within that structure. Students' notes often display an undifferentiated flow of text with no sign of the structure the lecturer thought they were presenting, little demarcation between topics, and little understanding of the distinctive function of each section of your lecture.

It is important to take time out from presenting content to remind students what you have covered so far, when you are moving on to the next section and what the next section will be about. Consider the following techniques you can use to signpost clearly to students where they are in your lecture.

Contents lists

If you use PowerPoint, include slides every so often that show the structure, or at least the contents list of your lecture, and highlight where you have reached within it.

Linking summaries

Include periodic summaries, e.g. "So we have now seen the way X works and how Y affects this, and that this only applies in certain conditions, so next I'm going to introduce some variations in the conditions and see how this changes what we have been looking at. These variations concern A and B."

Précis

If you have spent a long time on a complicated topic, it helps to give a short précis so that students can be clear what the central points were, before they get confused by the next section, e.g. "So the crucial things to remember about what I have just covered are X, Y and Z."

Signposting

Signpost where you are going next in relation to what you have just been talking about, e.g. "So we have been considering the two general principles: sections 2 and 3 in your handout. Now I'm going to illustrate what these principles look like in practice with a series of examples. There will be two main examples, numbered Example 1 and Example 2 in your handout."

Breaks

Mark a transition with a short break, e.g. "OK, that's all we'll deal with on topic X. Take a couple of minutes to look back through your notes on X and then we'll move on to Y." Perhaps you could ask students to review their notes and write their own précis of the previous section – then give your own précis before moving on.

Activity

Make sure students can use the ideas and information you have covered in a section of the lecture by getting them to tackle a short problem, individually or in pairs. The change of mental activity will mark the transition well to the next topic.