Learning Gains in Large Classes

Presented by Arshad Ahmad
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

  1. How do I connect with individual students in large classes (get to know them as people)?
    • Provide students with a question box via email.
    • Start each lecture addressing questions or issues brought up by students.
    • Have real time online office hours using the campus course management system.
  2. How do you get students to own (or feel they own) the class – take responsibility for their experience and what they learn?
    • Provide ongoing feedback via email.
    • At the beginning of the course, ask students about their expectations and incorporate responses.
    • Provide assessment.
  3. What else can I do in addition to lecturing?
    • Encourage work groups (assignments).
    • Post lecture notes using WebCT.
    • Labs.
    • Tutorials.
    • Problem solving/clinical case studies/current events.
    • Group projects.
    • Post questions/comments.
    • Guest lecturers.
    • Office hours.
  4. How do I handle the logistics of returning exams?
    • My tests are multiple choice. I discuss correct answers and typical errors in the class after the test.
  5. How do I deal with late assignments and missed tests?
    • This is not acceptable unless there is a valid reason.
    • The penalty would be 10% less for each late assignment for a limited time
  6. How can I encourage students to participate?
    • Participation mark (self-assessed, peer-assessed).
    • Foster an inclusive and safe atmosphere in the learning environment (in class, on-line).
    • Group assignments (with student assessment).
  7. How can I help students take better notes?
    • Shaping – begin with detailed notes, outline notes.
    • Compare notes with other students.
    • Discussion with other students during class to come up with examples.
    • Opportunities to fill in notes outline.
    • Let students know there are many correct ways of taking notes.
    • Provide organizers or road maps.
    • Leave out something - hook them into coming to class to see what was left out.
  8. How do I make students feel that they are not just a number?
    • Try to learn their names.
    • Group assignments.
    • Question sessions for those students who are struggling or acing (not the whole group).
    • Interaction on exam questions: discourse, modelling.
    • Try to meet with subgroups in class.
    • Encourage an open door policy.
  9. How can I encourage greater attendance in my class?
    • Pop quizzes.
    • Dynamic presentation.
    • Sense of humour.
    • Variety of approaches.
    • Student interaction.
    • Maintain control of class.
  10. How can I highlight important points in the lecture?
    • After doing several slides (10+) using PowerPoint, I insert the blue slide with three main points. The distinctive colour scheme alerts students that we are summarizing. The points may be concepts or skills they should have.
    • Ask them to generate the list.
  11. How do you get students to understand the underlying concept (they seem to think the material is simply a jumble of disconnected facts)?
    • If relevant and possible, provide real life examples (micro/the critical).
    • Time taken in class to illustrate (if possible) the links – macro level.
    • When necessary, repeat new concepts, aspects of materials introduced (days or weeks later)
    • Ask them afterwards if they have “got it.”
  12. Students in large lecture theatres seem to feel it is acceptable to carry on conversations during lecture, disturbing other students. How do we prevent this phenomenon?
    • Walk around.
    • Make eye contact.
    • Stop talking.
    • Ask if they have a comment or question.
    • Say, “What I am about to say might be on the exam.”
    • Have time for activities - mixture of lecture and interaction
    • Get their attention, i.e. let them know they will have a quiz, a reflection, bonus marks.
    • Direct questions so students know they have to pay attention.
  13. How can I encourage students to read the assignment before class?
    • Announce that they will be tested on it.
    • Single out students for quizzing (fear as a motivator).
    • Tell them it is in their best interest to arrive prepared.
    • Hand in a summary as an unmarked entrance requirement.
    • Use marks to motivate them.
    • Convince students that it is useful.
    • Use student data/experience to show them how useful it is.
  14. How does one motivate students to get beyond “What do I need to know for the exam?”
    • Connection between motivation of students’ interest or lives.
    • Peak their curiosity.
    • Stress the importance of knowing the material to their future work.
    • If material doesn’t do it, try emphasizing skills.
    • Express your own interest and enthusiasm. Be an example or role model.
    • Peer pressure?
  15. How to get feedback from students during the class to evaluate comprehension?
    • Link classroom stuff to real life.
    • Questions at the beginning of next class. Start with easy questions.
    • Bonus mark for answer to dilemma.
    • Put up a picture and ask if anyone understands?
    • Give a two-minute summary.
    • Question and answer - unsatisfactory.
    • Application - see if they grasp transition.
    • Write down things...not always OK.
    • After 20 minutes, ask students to turn to a neighbor and have a discussion.
    • Never introduce an important concept in the first five minutes or during the last 10 minutes.
  16. What are strategies that can be used to encourage discussion in class?
    • Form small groups of two or three students.
    • For greater comfort level give them a somewhat “structured” question or issue to address.
    • Provide a group sheet to make points as a small group.
    • Let groups know before about the process.
    • Give them the opportunity to sit near people they feel comfortable with.
    • After the students have had time to discuss the question, come back to the large class and ask for responses. Call on one group member to provide a summary of the group's discussion.
    • Have written material to read or discuss and not so intimidating.
    • Instructors role to record points and try to moderate ongoing discussion around the issues