# Learning Gains in Large Classes

Presented by Arshad Ahmad

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

**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.

**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.

**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.

**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.

**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

**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).

**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.

**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.

**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.

**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.

**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.”

**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.

**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.

**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?

**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.

**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