Teaching and Learning Resources

Large Class Teaching

The most widely used method of teaching large classes is the traditional lecture. The formal lecture is among the oldest teaching methods and has been widely use in higher education for centuries. There are a number of potential benefits of a good lecture such as presenting analyses, modeling thought processes, summarizing and presenting an overview of a topic, synthesizing, evaluating and discussing information.

Many instructors have been taught themselves by lecture and view it as safer, easier, and more reliable than other methods of instruction. Lectures alone though have not been found to be the most useful method for deep and lasting student learning. Using lectures in combination with other kinds of instruction, such as discussion and cooperative learning, can increase their effectiveness.

Tips to Create an Effective Large Class Experience
1. Establish ground rules on the first day of class. Inviting students to contribute to the list of rules can help
    ensure that students will follow the rules.
2. Make the lecture content relevant and meaningful for students.
3. Capture students’ attention at the beginning of the lecture by emphasizing main points.
4. Consider teaching to a number of learning styles by presenting information in different ways such as
    role-play, discussion, simulation, real-world application and multi-media.
5. Plan an "energy shift", a change of activity and pace of the class every 15 to 20 minutes to keep
    students engaged.
6. Focus on your audience’s reaction to the lecture. If you see that they are getting restless or seem
    confused you can then address concerns.
7. Consider ways to elicit feedback from your students to determine their understanding of the lecture.  
    This might include the one-minute paper activity at the end of class (see Appendix A below).
8. Including diagrams, graphs, outlines, slides and films can contribute to engagement in the lecture.
    Ensure that the technology you use is visible and audible to all students.
9. Personalize the large class by making it feel smaller. Try walking around the lecture hall while talking,
    moving towards a student who is answering a question and doing small group activities
    (See Collaborative and cooperative learning)
10. Be available to students before and after class to answer questions or briefly chat.


Tips from the McMaster Community

My introductory class is too large for me to learn all of the students names

Related Resources

Teaching Large Classes is a website created by the University of Western Ontario. It provides information on all aspects of teaching large classes with the goal of making student learning as effective, productive, and enjoyable as possible

The Lecture Class discusses in detail a number of tips and strategies for teaching by the lecture method.

Teaching Large Classes includes frequently asked questions and large class resources.

Staying Afloat in a Sea of Faces: Tips for Handling Large Classes is a summary of discussions from a CLL seminar presented by Dr. Dick Day.

Learning Gains in Large Class is a presentation by Dr. Arshad Ahmad.

Appendix A
One minute Paper
Please answer each question in one or two sentences:

   1) What was the most useful/meaningful thing you learned during this session?

2) What question(s) remain uppermost in your mind as we end this session?

* From Cross and Angelo, Classroom Assessment Techniques (1988): 148-150.