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Large Classes Video

Managing a Large Class Video Transcript pdf

questionWhat is it and what’s the impact on learning?

Each individual will have a different idea of what constitutes a large class based on their own experiences. However, regardless of what you deem a large class, large groups typically pose a different set of challenges than smaller ones. For instance, large enrollments can promote disengagement and feelings of alienation, which can erode students’ sense of responsibility, and lead to behaviors that both reflect and promote lack of engagement (Wilsman, 2016). The majority of concerns tend to fall under the following:

  • Controlling the learning environment, including the management of distractions (e.g. talking; late arrivals).
  • Managing time, including not having time to interact with all students, or for each student to contribute.
  • Managing paperwork, including how to collect/hand out assignments, as well as how to effectively grade.
  • Offering learning activities, including how to effectively carry out activities, offer variety, and ensure that the activities address the diversity aspect in the class (e.g. the different skill sets and levels of knowledge).
  • Addressing anonymity and student engagement (e.g. taking attendance, following student progress).

2flechesHow do we address it?

A number of strategies can be carried out to address the highlighted concerns, and which try to ensure a positive and productive learning environment. For ease, we have grouped these into 4 categories:

  • Organization: Carefully plan all aspects of the course (e.g. activities and assessments), and provide a clear structure to students, along with well-defined expectations. Some things that you might want to consider here are getting to know the room, focusing on presenting 2-3 key ideas during a session, using handouts, and preparing for common issues that arise (e.g. deferral exams).
  • Climate: Try to ensure that you present an inclusive and welcoming environment by engaging Teacher Immediacy principles (Terrion, 2015). In basic terms, use verbal and non-verbal behavior to show not only that you are a human being, but that you are interested in your students and their progress. For instance, make sure to smile, face students, and reduce any barriers between you and the learner (e.g. podium). Also focus on providing opportunities to socialize, as well as provide positive and constructive feedback, encourage student input/feedback, and share a bit about yourself (nothing too personal obviously).
  • Engage in Active Learning:  Adopt an interactive lecture model within which you vary the activities every 15-20 minutes to provide opportunities for students to engage with others and with the material.
  • Use Technology: Technology can help guide lectures; facilitate discussion, interaction and the sharing of information in an outside of the classroom; encourage peer instruction; allow for enhanced assessment, data collection and feedback; and most importantly permit each student to have a voice.

exclamationWhat are some things to consider?

Remember to consider the space that you will be using to learn in, as well as how grouping students might be beneficial when planning activities. Although you might have a great activity that is perfectly aligned with a learning outcome, some things might not be feasible. It’s also important to keep in mind that small problems can become rather big, rather quickly in a large group, so try your best to foresee and address problems before they occur.

References:

Wilsman, A. (2016). Teaching large classes (2016). Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN.
Terrion, J.L. (Jan. 23, 2014). Re-envisioning the large class.  TEDx talk. University of Ottawa. Ottawa, ON. Accessed July 18, 2016.

N.B. Some hyperlinks may not be functional as some web pages are no longer available.

loupeWant to know more?

Check out the expanded version of this document in the following section, or contact The Centre for Innovative Pedagogies and Digital Learning (CIPDL) to meet with an Educational Developer at

What is it and why is it important?

questionA large class is hard to define since each individual will have a different idea of what constitutes a large class. For instance, for some, a large class could be considered 40 students, if the individual is only used to having classes with a few students. However, regardless of what you deem a large class, large groups do pose a different set of challenges than those typically encountered when smaller numbers of students are involved. For instance, in the classroom, large enrollments can promote student disengagement and feelings of alienation, which can erode students’ sense of responsibility, and lead to behaviors that both reflect and promote lack of engagement 1 .

1 Portions of this text are adapted from Teaching large classes (2016) by Adam Wilsman, Graduate teaching fellow from the center for teaching at Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN. The original work is licensed under an Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

How can we address it?

cerveauWhen it comes to large classes the majority of concerns fall under one of the following:
Concerns with….

  • Controlling the learning environment, including the management of distractions such as talking and late arrivals.
  • Managing time, including not having enough time to interact with each student, or for each student to contribute.
  • Managing paperwork, including how to collect and hand out assignments/assessments, as well as how to effectively grade.
  • Offering learning activities, including how to effectively carry out activities, offer variety, and ensure that the activities address the diversity aspect in the class (e.g. the different skill sets and levels of knowledge, and variety of background present).
  • Addressing anonymity and student engagement, including difficulty taking attendance, following student progress, or even learning students’ names.

So what can we do to help meet these challenges, and try to ensure a positive learning experience? According to literature in the area, there are a number of things that can be carried out. For ease, we have grouped these into the following 4 categories:

  1. Organization
  2. Climate
  3. Active Learning
  4. Using Technology

Organization is essential when it comes to managing a large number of students. Carefully planning all aspects of the course, and providing a clear structure to students, along with well-defined expectations, can among other things, help reduce paper work and save time.

Focusing on climate and the engagement of active learning principles are also important factors, since an inclusive, interactive and welcoming environment can positively impact engagement, help address anonymity concerns as well as group diversity.

Finally, technology, when integrated appropriately both in and outside of the classroom, can help address any number of concerns mentioned earlier. As an example, consider how an automatically graded online quiz might be of benefit, or how an online discussion forum could help keep everyone connected.

Putting it into Practice

2flechesSo what are some specific key practices that one can consider when trying to address the organization, climate, active learning and technology aspects of managing a large class? In reality, you may already do some or many of the following. If this is the case, try to make an effort to simply do more!

Step 1: Organization

      1. Provide clear structure and expectations. For instance, decide what to cover by defining your learning outcomes/goals.
        1. Outline the course and your expectations. Indicate what you expect from students and what they can expect from you as well.
        2. Also when doing this, make sure to trim the material down for a larger class and provide variety.
          1. This is because a more varied social, educational, ethnic, and cultural background is likely the bigger the class gets. This means you need to provide more varied examples, more explanations, and potentially even repeat material more often.
          2. The overall goal is not simply to pass on or transmit information, but rather to motivate the students, and teach them how to learn. If you want to know more on how to motivate students, please see our video covering this topic.
        Interested in learning more about how to define your learning outcomes? Cornell has put together a simple and comprehensive site on creating learning outcomes including a learning outcome checklist.
      2. Carefully plan all activities including assessments and make sure that they are feasible for a large class.
        1. Get to know the room and make sure everything works before class and be prepared for technology failure.
        2. Focus on presenting 2-3 key ideas during a session.
        3. Consider using handouts and post them online beforehand. Potentially make them interactive.
        4. Be prepared for the common issues that come up. You already know what they might be!
          For example:
          1. Prepare supplemental exams.
          2. Prepare for access service requests.
          3. Have a clear policy on deferred assignments and exams, plagiarism, communication and anything else that you feel is important.

Step 2: Climate

It is important to manage the class climate to ensure that it is an inclusive and welcoming environment, but how can we do this?

      1. Focus on what the University of Ottawa’s own in house expert on the matter, Jennepher Lennox Terrion (2014) calls “Teacher Immediacy”.

        So what do we mean by Teacher Immediacy? Well Jenepher Lennox Terrion’s research has shown that the development of positive relationships between instructor and students plays a major role in the development of a successful learning environment. In fact, research indicates that it is essential to demonstrate a desire to create a connection as this will build a trusting environment; one where students feel they can take risks. This is not surprising, since in relationships, we tend to respond more positively when someone shows an interest in us.  So when a student perceives that a teacher is interested:

        1. This will improve participation and attendance.
        2. Increase persuasive ability, since we are more persuasive when we are liked.
        3. This will more likely increase contact with professor outside class.
        4. This will lead to better teaching evaluations. After all, students who sense that we like them, tend to like us as well.

        So what can we do to let students know that we are interested in their learning and care if they learn?

        Let’s consider some non-verbal behaviors we might express:

        1. Teach with vocal variation.
          • Monotone gets tuned out, we are attracted to things that change.
        2. Smiling. It says a lot.
        3. Leaning into students. Getting in closer proximity.
        4. Facing the student.
          • The connection between you and the student breaks when you turn around. Facing students will also reduce the likelihood of them looking at their phone, Facebook etc…
        5. Removing/decreasing barriers
          • Avoid standing behind tables and podiums.
          • Try to focus less on notes to communicate with students.

        We can also use our verbal behavior to show interest in our students learning, including:

        1. Using Humor.
        2. Offering Positive feedback.
        3. Letting students know that you liked what they said.
        4. Calling students by name.
        5. Encouraging student input.
          • Look positive when they are responding.
        6. Use inclusive pronouns
          • For example, say things like “We”, “Us” rather than you and I.

        Interested in knowing more on Teacher Immediacy, check out “Immediacy in the Classroom: Research and Practical Implications” from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers website.

      2. To improve class climate, you could also try to avoid the Blur.
        1. What do we mean here? Well in a large class, you look tiny at the front of the room, and your students spread out in a large auditorium do as well. Everyone is pretty much a blur.

          So how can one avoid the Blur? Well consider:

          1. Knowing students’ names.
            • In a big class, you are probably asking yourself, how?? Well, perhaps get a picture of each student, along with a student profile indicating something unique about that student, that will allow you to recall who they are!
          2. Provide ice breaker opportunities so students can get to know each other and start to build a community atmosphere.
          3. Provide info about yourself to students.
          4. Be accessible/available to students.
          5. Greet students at the start, and thank them at the end.
          6. Arrive early and wait a few minutes after class.
          7. Move around the classroom.
          8. Provide opportunities for feedback/input from students.

Step 3: Engage in Active Learning

      1. Provide opportunities for Active Learning. For instance, adopt an interactive lecture model within which you:
        1. Vary the activities.
        2. Change things up every 15 min.
        3. Create opportunities for students to meet in smaller groups inside and outside class. For instance, create working teams/pairs, discussion activities, lab meetings, study/learning groups.
        4. Provide opportunities for assessment.  Consistently provide in-class assessments. This will allow you as well as your students to see how they are progressing, and where improvements need to be made.

To learn more about this concept, please see our video and resources on Active Learning.

Step 4: Use Technology

Another thing to consider is using technology in the classroom. For instance, use technology to give your lecture, but make sure to avoid relying too heavily on one form such as PPTs. Instead, switch it up by using PPTs mixed with videos, and other technological activities.

      1. For example, perhaps consider using Polling/Survey Systems. This can be used to:
        1. Facilitate class discussions
        2. Guide Lectures
        3. Encourage Peer instruction
        4. Collect Data & Assess
        5. Take Attendance
      2. To keep things going outside of the classroom, consider using electronic forums or other communication tools to:
        1. Facilitate student-faculty communication.
        2. Facilitate classmate connections.
        3. Facilitate online discussions.
        4. Share Information.
        5. Allow for discussion and info processing.
      3. Another option is to share and manage info online using an online Course site. This is a one stop shop where students can collaborate and communicate with others, as well as obtain class materials, submit work, and perhaps even view their progress/grades.

For additional information on using technology to manage a large classroom, please consult, the “How do I integrate Multimedia” section.  

Exercise: Reflecting on your Teaching Strategies

exerciceHow are you currently teaching and what strategies do you use that promote an effective class climate?  Complete the following to see!  pdfYour Teaching Style Profile.

How do I integrate multimedia?

mediaSo now it's time to explore what technology is available to help manage a large class.  Given the sheer abundance of tech tools that can be discussed, here we will mention a select few that are either already widely used, or which are supported and therefore offered free of charge by the University of Ottawa. If you wish to know more about any of these tools, please visit each of the respective services or contact the Teaching and Learning Support Services at the University of Ottawa.

fluidsurveys

FluidSurveys is a do-it-yourself online survey tool that allows you to create your own survey, collect data from respondents, and analyze results.

What are some things you can do with Fluid Survey?

  • Build unlimited surveys & forms.
  • Start from scratch or use expert designed templates.
  • Over 35 question types are at your disposal: multiple choice, single answer, text response, grids, semantic differential, rating.
  • Collect responses in real time with ease.

Want to know more?

  • Why not take a tour by visiting the Fluidsurveys Website.

Want to try out FluidSurveys?

  • Fluid Survey is supported by the University of Ottawa and is available free of charge to personnel who act in a teaching capacity (e.g. Professors, T.A.'s). To obtain a free uOttawa account for fluid survey, please:
    1. Click on the link.
    2. Follow the instructions on the screen.
    3. After submitting your request, you will receive your account login information via email.
    4. You will also receive an email directly from fluid survey asking you to confirm your account.
    5. Keep in mind that in order to access your account in the future, you will need to go to https://uottawa.fluidsurveys.com/accounts/login/?next=/account/.Please note that you will not be able to access your account by simply going to www.fluidsurvey.com.

Twitter

twitter

Looking to facilitate reflection, discussion and interaction among your students? Then you might want to consider Twitter.

Want to try out Twitter?

  twitter inscTwitter Tutorial 1 - How to Signup

Some Limitations – Things to Consider

exclamationRemember to consider the space that you will be using to learn in, as well as the number of students when planning activities. Although you might have a great activity that is perfectly aligned with a learning outcome, some things might not be feasible.  It’s also important to keep in mind that small problems can become rather big, rather quickly in a large group, so try your best to foresee and address problems before they occur. For more on this, review point 2, under step 1: Organization.

Want to know more?

loupe

  1. Interested in knowing more about handling a large classroom, including recommendations on how to effectively deal with examinations/assessments? Then check out the following resources from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Faculty Center of Teaching.
  2. Also consider taking a look at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching Guide on Teaching large classes which outlines how to handle assessment in a large class, how to integrate technology as well as how to promote student engagement.
  3. You might also want to check out the following brief article that focuses on Edutopia’s short article on the topic, which outlines 4 key Tips to handling a large class, and provides links to a number of other resources that you might find interesting, including classroom management and technology integration.

References/Resources

A survival handbook for teaching large classes. (2000). Accessed September 15, 2015 from the University of North Carolina Charlotte web-site.

Active learning in large lectures. Accessed August 220, 2015 from Merlot Resources.

Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed., The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty (Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cameron, B. J. (1999). Active Learning Green guide no. 2.Halifax, NS: Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. Teaching Resources. Accessed May 14, 2016.

Chamberland, G., Lavoie. L. & Marquis. D. (1995). 20 Formules pédagogiques (Éditions rev. et corr.. ed., Collection Formules pédagogiques). Québec, QC: Presses de l’Université du Québec.

Cooper. J. L. & Robinson, P. (2000). The argument for making large classes seem small. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 81, 5-16.      

Davis, B. G. (1993). Tools for teaching (The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

Course Design. Accessed October 10, 2015 from the University of Central Florida web-site.

Fink, D. L. & Fink, A. K. (2009). Designing courses for significant learning: Voices of experience (New directions for teaching and learning ; no. 119). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

FluidSurveys (n.d). Accessed July 22, 2016 from the University of Ottawa`s Information and Communication Services web-site.  

Jones, L. (2007). The student centered classroom. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY.

Large Classes: A Teaching Guide Large Class Introduction: The Demand for Quality Undergraduate Education. (2008). Accessed August, 2016 from the Boston University School of Public Health, Office of Teaching, Learning and Technology.

List of resources for teaching large classes. (n.d.) Accessed May 6, 2016 from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State.

Doing Collaborative Learning: Peer editing (1997). Accessed June 29, 2016 from the National Institute for Science Education.

Resources (n.d).  Accessed June 14, 2016 from the Centre for Teaching Excellence de University of Waterloo.

Sass, E. J. (1989). Motivation in the college classroom: What students tell us. Teaching of Psychology, 16(2), 86-88.

Setting learning outcomes. (2012). Accessed July 25, 2016 from the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Cornell University web-site.

Terrion, J.L. (Jan. 23, 2014). Re-envisioning the large class.  TEDx talk. University of Ottawa. Ottawa, CA. Accessed July 22, 2016 from Youtube .

Thistle, D.J. (9 septembre 2015). How to Twitter : The ultimate beginner’s guide for using Twitter. Accessed July 22, 2016 from Steam Feed web-site.

Twelve active learning strategies. [document PDF]. (2008).Accessed July 22, 2016 from the Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota web-site.

Wilsman, A. (2016). Teaching large classes. Accessed July 22, 2016 from the Centre for Innovative Pedagogies and Digital Learning (CIPDL) at Vanderbilt University web-site.

For additional information, or to meet with an Educational Developer, please contact the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS)’s Centre for Innovative Pedagogies and Digital Learning (CIPDL) at the University of Ottawa by e-mail () or by phone (613-562-5800, poste 5333). Visit the TLSS website! (tlss.uOttawa.ca)!

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