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