Seize the Moment with “Call & Response” Podcast Learning Practices

Two people doing a podcast in a studio

Educational podcasting may symbolize a thorough learning possibility to stimulate students’ imaginations throughout the post-pandemic educational continuum. Regardless of whether students decide on asynchronous, synchronous, or HyFlex courses in the future, podcasting can reinforce important educational objectives through concise and manageable tasks while at the same time accompanying self-paced and varied learning styles (Powell & Robson, 2014). By implementing modern technologies and supporting tech-centered learning experiences, podcasting can embody a valuable conduit capable of bridging learning gaps with a laptop while reforming a curriculum where information can be shared reciprocally between student and teacher. Seeing that the pandemic has already forced education to heavily rely on computer and web-based technology, students learning online are already expected to download learning material, interact with PDFs, watch video lectures, and reply to discussion threads to comprehensively understand difficult information typically delivered in a more satisfactory learning atmosphere. Thus, online learning may have favorably trained students to aggregate and integrate many forms of technology at one time to enrich the learning experience (Law-Penrose, 2021). These newly developed skillsets combined with high levels of technological integration established an ideal foundation to implement podcasting as an educational aid across all the learning models in post-pandemic education.

Six stages of an educational podcast

While no formal guidelines associated with producing educational podcasting currently exist, a review of the current literature reveals that individual episodes should be well planned, concise, and adhere to stringent standards about content that are endorsed by revised research (Cho et al., 2017). Professors in the department of kinesiology at Cal Poly Tech Humboldt have observed growth in student performance and comprehension by designing content-specific episodes that begin by considering the basic building block of an instructor-generated podcast.  To achieve effective learning via podcasting, educators should consider “The Six Stages of Educational Podcasts” to create the body of work. 

The Six Stages of an Educational Podcast

  1. Planning phase
  2. The introduction
  3. The first body
  4. Questions
  5. The second body
  6. The conclusion

Planning phase  

In this phase, instructors should consider the topic selection with a precise focus on a particular subject. The topic will represent the outline of the episode and therefore will require great effort to narrow the topic down to an element they can speak about for a single episode. Furthermore, episode length will also need to be considered because lengthy podcasts that are laden with complex information are an ineffective use of the technology. It is more advantageous for the learner when instructors build smaller “chunks” of topics into several conceptual podcast blocks (Simonson 2007). Therefore, shorter episodes furnish learners with a manner to obtain information from an instructor, process the material, and reciprocate with a narrative that tests several essential learning modalities, including visual, verbal, auditory, and written skills.


The introduction should be professional and strive to capture the attention of the listener. Here, you will address what your episode title suggests and start to build a relationship with your audience. The podcast introduction is what brings the listener to the content, and it gives you an adequate amount of time to create a compelling hook or an opening statement that attempts to grab the listener’s attention to make them want to interact with the episode.

The first body

Instructors should guide students to begin learning by activating their prior understanding. Educators need to close the conceptual space between what was previously learned and the new material that is intended to be imparted. To inspire students to return to their past knowledge, while setting up the right pathways for them to receive new ideas and ask epistemic questions, Popova suggests that podcasting can be arranged to activate prior knowledge, stimulate higher-order thinking, and create a bridge that reduces the conceptual distance between what has been learned before and the new material being imparted (Popova et al., 2014).


Utilizing questions immediately following the first body should be implemented by instructors to associate previous lessons with new material. New learning is built on the foundation of prior knowledge, and the question stage is intended to bridge the activation of previous knowledge to new concepts (Wilhelm & Beishuizen, 2004). Thus, posing questions before new lectures will encourage richer connections to the learning experience by fostering self-questioning, which has been seen as strongly associated with enhanced student achievement (Hailikari et al., 2008).

The Second Body 

Once students have familiarized the overall direction of the instructor-generated podcast, students will be primed to receive new material. The principal focus of the second body is to convey new information. In this portion, instructors possess the autonomy to utilize instructional aids by offering visuals to accompany the podcast, offering class notes, figures or graphs, or reflecting pages from a textbook to proficiently convey the new material. In some instances, the podcast can stand alone as its learning entity. However, the second body of the podcast can also repent a primer, where it can be employed in combination with review activities or formal lectures.

The conclusion

The conclusion must be catchy, professional, and captivating. Over the course of the podcast, instructors have established a bond with students who are engaging with the content. In the conclusion, it is important to consider ending the episode with inspiration and motivation. Instructors should leave a lasting impression and encourage a “call to action” or student response. The final minutes of the episode should incorporate critical and multi-dimensional thinking that inspires students to reflect and come to a reliable conclusion.

Translating the six stages of an educational podcast into a “call and response learning” project

By combining the six stages of an educational podcast with a few simple tools (laptop, microphone, and recording software), instructors can develop topic-specific podcasts by employing “Call and Response Learning.” Principally, this learning strategy promotes verbal interaction between speaker and listener in which instructor-generated podcasts, the call, are published for students to engage. Once students have had sufficient time to interact with an instructor’s episode, they are tasked to create a student–generated podcast, signifying the response. In this approach, students record their voices responding to their instructor’s prompts, which offers a critical space for students to talk their way into learning and retaining content more deeply.

Consider the application of a call-and-response exercise used to build audio archives in a pathophysiology class. An instructor would produce a 35-minute podcast developed to support an assigned reading centering on immune cell activation in a bout of acute inflammation. Once students completed their assigned textbook readings, the instructor would publish the inflammation episode for students to engage. After the episode, the instructor would further provide directions as to how they would like their students to respond, thereby prompting them to manipulate their discourse, emphasize personal expression, and skillfully affirm verbally what was delivered in the instructor-generated podcast (Bustari et al., 2017).

Given the opportunity, students will create a variety of responses, which will build valuable and diverse learning dimensions that surround the instructor’s original lesson. For example, some students may respond by concentrating on a single immune cell type such as a phagocyte or neutrophil while others may respond by focusing on acute inflammatory responses that progress into chronic inflammation. Some students may even research and publish on the molecular modifications that trigger mechanistic changes associated with edema after the onset of inflammation. Notwithstanding, the possibilities of distinct responses surrounding the initial topic of acute inflammation can be uploaded to a podcast platform and made available for any students enrolled in an exercise physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, or physiology course. From this perspective, educational podcasting allows each student to develop creative content centered around a facet of science that interests them while concurrently giving them access to other student-generated work that may play an important role in filling in knowledge gaps (Zurcher et al., 2016).


While still in its infancy stage, the potential for educational podcasting in asynchronous, synchronous, and HyFlex learning classrooms is robust. The delivery of short-length, topic-specific podcast to support self-paced learning via multiple comprehensive methodologies is a very attractive concept easily adoptable by all majors. Critical benefits to adopting this practice are that the call-and-response format offers students the opportunity to manage personal learning practices, foster creativity, and maximize the convenience of learning from home. In addition, educational Podcasting provides learners with multiple opportunities to review instructor-centered material and record notes at a relaxed pace since recorded episodes do not limit students to a single exposure to material like in a traditional classroom. Likewise, the student’s response to an episode offers them a unique, self-interested learning arrangement where each participant can freely explore material that is most attractive to them, an opportunity that is rarely afforded in the hard sciences.

Dr. Brian K Blackburn is an assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University (CSU), Humboldt. Prior to CSU, Dr. Blackburn was a translational diabetes researcher in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also lectured in the Biology and Human Health Sciences Department at The College of Lake County. He completed an eight-year Ph.D. in Human Bioenergetics, Kinesiology, and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Blackburn is a published author in peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Physiology and Redox Biology. Further, Dr. Blackburn is an ad hoc reviewer for the CPQ Orthopedics journal. Dr. Blackburn has also served as a strength and conditioning specialist for professional athletes and teams for the past decade. He has conducted work with the Chicago Blackhawks and currently works as a lead Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) coach for three UFC fighters and specializes in speed, agility, and explosiveness training for combative athletes. Dr. Blackburn conducts strength and conditioning as well as vegan-based nutritional seminars across the country. You can follow Dr. Blackburn’s work on his Vegan podcast, The Plant-based Riot, on iTunes.


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