March 21, 2007

Strategies to Engage Students in Large Lecture Classes

Classes should be designed so it is impossible for the students to take a passive role in the course. This Chinese Proverb is a good reminder: "Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand." Unfortunately, it is often difficult to gain the involvement of students in large lectures. In an ideal world, students would ask questions when needed, however, most students are apprehensive to speak up in large lectures.

Below are some tips to keep students actively engaged in large lectures:

1) Use a deck of index cards of student names to randomly call on students to share in their own words their understanding of key concepts of the reading and/or lecture. This strategy will keep students actively listening in lecture since all students have the possibility of being selected to participate.

2) Develop a routine time, either before or after lecture, for students to drop off written questions they have about the material/concepts discussed.

3) Give students the option to turn in a piece of paper with their name and the discussion topic they shared in class for participation points. This can also help you with learning your students' names.

4) Invite the class to bring in materials, such as current news articles, which are pertinent to the class topic.

Read More Ideas:

• The Chronicle's Big, But Not Bad article with additional resources at the end, such as tips and books

Survival Handbook for Teaching Large Classes (from UNC Charlotte)

Interactive Lectures: Summaries of 36 Formats

Engaging a Large Lecture Course

What works for you? Please comment with additional ideas you use to encourage student engagement in large lectures. Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!


todd said...

Index cards are great for the random name selector. ;)

TK said...

Pass the pointer
An activity I sometimes do with students during a power point presentation is to give my laser pointer to a student and have them identify a particular part of something on the screen, such as an event that is represented on an electrocardiogram (EKG). That student passes the pointer to another student who has to identify the next step in the process and explain what is going on there. It gets the students more involved and puts them in the "professor's seat" for a minute.
Overall the students respond well, and they pay more attention since they donĂ­t know who will be picked next.

Anonymous said...

I also think there are opportunities for cooperative learning in large group lectures. Having students pair up and work on a specific problem/scenario helps break-up the lecture format. An activity like this needs good structure and follow-through. Students need to know how much time they have, the quality of response you expect, and how long they have to present their response. Having some groups turn in a written response and calling on a few random groups to share in class will ensure all students get acknowledgement for their collaborative learning experience. (yes, it's bound to get noisy, but its worth it!)