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Large Classroom Teaching

Whether one considers 50 or 500 students in one classroom large, there is a concern about how best to facilitate their learning.  While lecture is an acceptable option (especially when you are communicating information that students are unfamiliar with), research has confirmed active engagement facilitate deeper learning and motivation (Weimer, 2012; Ryan & Deci, 2000).  This webpage offers a number of recommendations to effectively engage students in the large classroom context.

Decide prior to the start of the course what mode (or modes) of communication you will use. Options are:

  • Emails through Outlook or Google
  • Emails and Messaging through Canvas

Questions to ask when choosing the platform include:

  • Will using this method promote further use by students due to their current use of the technology and availability on mobile devices?
  • Does it provide instant or immediate access to information to mobile apps or through RSS feeds?
  • Will sending a message through this medium make public private information about my students?
  • Is there a mode through this tool that can be used to restrict access to those outside the class?

Strategies that can help students connect to you and each other include:

  • Learn your students’ names.
    • Make use of the student photo roster in the learning management system.
    • Utilize name tents. You might only use these until you get all the names.
  • Gather relevant information about students to make the learning personal such as:
    • Their prior experience with the content
    • Educational backgrounds
    • General information about interests and goals
  • Icebreakers:
    • M&M Icebreaker – Students are given a piece of candy (groups of 3-12 are optimal). They are then asked to share different information with another student depending on the color of their piece of candy.  You, as the instructor would decide what particular information you want students to share.
    • Concentric Circles – Divide the class into manageable groups, and then have students arrange themselves as an inner and outer circle with equal numbers so that students can pair up. Students are then given a list of questions.  For each question, the student rotates to a new partner thus, building multiple connections.

The following are some simple active learning techniques that work in a large classroom context:

  • Create Small Learning Communities.  Have students is to have them sit together in assigned groups and work together within their learning communities during class activities (you may change the groups after a certain period if you choose).
  • Phone a Friend. Ask a student a question.  If the student cannot answer the question, they can choose another student to help them answer the question.
  • Circle the Questions.
    • Make a handout that has a few likely student questions (make them specific) on your topic for that day and ask students to circle the ones they don’t know the answers to, then turn in the paper.
    • Have students hold onto the list of questions and mark off the ones that get answered during the class and ultimately turn in just the ones they still do not know the answer to.

Download our “Large Classroom Engagement” handout for additional information.