Designing handouts

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by Rhona-Mae Arca

Do you use handouts in your teaching? If so, what form does your handout take? How would you define a handout?

A handout is defined as an instructional tool that complements a lecture resulting in improved understanding of information and test performance in How to prepare lecture handouts (Wayne State University School of Medicine, n.d., p. 1). You'll find this resource really useful, especially since it includes examples of handouts in a variety of formats, e.g. comprehensive text, skeletal or gapped outline, etc.

Do you agree with this definition?

Some teachers prefer the use of comprehensive handouts, others use very brief handouts. In some cases, the handout might be a copy of PowerPoint slides or a journal article or a page photocopied from a textbook. There are a few things you should consider when deciding to give students handouts. Before designing and developing a handout, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What is the purpose of the handout and what do you want students to learn?
  • How much detail should be included?
  • Will my handouts help to overcome any literacy and numeracy issues that my students might have?
  • Will photos, diagrams and tables enhance the quality of the handout?
  • What resources do I have to produce the handout?
  • How, where and when will the handout be made available to my students?
Providing digital handouts might be easier for more students to access and manage, especially if they use mobile devices or have missed a class.
  • Are there any potential copyright issues?



For more information about copyright licensing, and accessing materials, please refer to the following resources.

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Activity - Handouts and subject-specific resources

Please add your responses to this activity to your portfolio, and share on the Moodle discussion forum. This is a good opportunity to get more ideas.

  • Identify and justify a format that you prefer to use for providing handouts to your students.
  • Describe at least two different types of handout that you could develop for use in your teaching in the future.
You are welcome to provide examples if you wish to create them.
Why are these handouts likely to be useful for your students?
  • What other types of subject-specific resources (in addition to handouts) do you use in your teaching?
How do you believe these resources help your students' learning?