Teaching large classes presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. The Adams Center gathered a panel of four professors who teach large classes (100-250 students) to share their experiences and insights.
One of the most effective tools faculty members use to make the classroom feel smaller by trying to connect more with students. In other words, what can be done to make a large space with lots of students feel a bit smaller?
Learn students’ names:
- Ask students to create paper table tents so you can call students by name.
- Use the attendance tool in MyACU to hide the students’ names and quiz yourself to learn their names.
- Use a seating chart to help remember student names or interact with students.
Build relationship with students:
- If possible, configure the room so that you can circulate through the space of the room as you teach and interact with the class.
- Attempt to set up for class several minutes ahead of time in order to mingle as the students enter for class. Consider rotating throughout the class in sections if you have a seating chart in order to visit with various students as the semester progresses.
- Begin with a prayer and allow for 2-3 students to share a prayer request.
Shrink the class by creating teams:
- Assign students to teams the first day of class based simply on alphabetical order. Ask the team members to exchange contact information with each other and come up with a team name. Throughout the semester engage the teams in friendly competitions through Kahoot, Quizlet, or other similar gamification app. Teams can collaborate together during class discussions and you, as the professor, can call on a team to answer a question rather than opening it up to a class of 100+.
Encourage students to use office hours:
- Give extra credit to students who take a selfie by your office door so they know where your office is.
- Use the calendar tool on Canvas to set up 10 minute meet and greet appointments with students. Consider allowing students to sign up with a friend so they feel more comfortable showing up to the professor’s office.
- To avoid confusion, rename office hours to “student hours” so students know this is the time you are available.
- As a good behavior incentive, offer a Five for Friday. If the class is attentive and participatory through the week, class will be dismissed five minutes early on Friday.
- Share strategies to help students know how to study, including research that supports such strategies.
- Use peer instruction to reinforce learning.
Testing, cheating, and studying need different attention when teaching a large class. Sometimes the anonymity of large classes can make it more tempting for students to cheat. Lockdown Browser is a tool within Canvas that can be particularly helpful when testing a large class. While Lockdown Browser is a very solid tool to prevent academic integrity breaches, there are other ways to cheat as well. Ask students to put away all books, papers, and phones and remove ear buds.
When testing in class, consider muting the grades for the test or quiz at hand so that students aren’t receiving a notification immediately upon submission. This tip prevents an onslaught of emails from disgruntled students and allows the professor to see all the grades of the exam together before releasing the grades to students.
Finally, remember that even with excellent teaching, not every student will thrive or even pass.
For assistance in thinking through your own large class, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Adams Center. We are willing and eager to assist you in this endeavor!