When class sizes grow, faculty often encounter challenges in creating an effective and engaging learning environment. ASSETT decided to ask the best of the best what strategies have worked for them. We interviewed 6 faculty and a teaching assistant who have had success in teaching in large introductory level courses. Here are their responses to some common challenges faced by instructors of 100+ enrollment courses.
Tips on Managing Distraction in Large Lecture Courses
David Allen, PhD (Senior Instructor, Psychology and Neuroscience)
David Allen, PhD, focuses on how he teaches Psychology 2012, Biological Psychology 1. Allen discusses the challenges of bringing students up to speed with the rest of the class when teaching a large introductory class. He says that he asks students to get out of their seats and actually act out biological processes.
David Bearce, PhD (Professor, Political Science)
David Bearce, PhD, teaches International Affairs 1000: Global Issues and International Affairs to 300 to 400 students. Bearce delegates the responsibility of finding reading materials for students for recitation sessions to his Teaching Assistants (TAs). Bearce’s TAs also administer and grade assessments in recitations.
David Bortz, PhD (Associate Professor, Applied Mathematics)
David Bortz, PhD, teaches Applied Mathematics 2360, Introduction to Differential Equations with Linear Algebra to about 150 students. Bortz and his course team undertake an in-depth and rigorous process to create fair exams in time for the hundreds of students to take the test.
Beth Dusinberre, PhD (Professor, Classics)
Beth Dusinberre, PhD, teaches Classics 1509 Trash and Treasure to 300 to 400 students. Even during her large lecture, Dusinberre asks students to get out of their seats for participatory activities. She also acknowledges her struggles with stage fright and tackles it head on with skills that she learned in acting classes.
Alyssa Friedman, Teaching Assistant
Alyssa Friedman shares how she and the other TAs are invested in their students’ success. Further, we asked Dr. Dusinberre’s students what worked well for them in such a large course. They responded that their professor learns their names and asks them to share their thoughts in the large lecture. Students also talked about the interactive activities that their instructor prepares for them.
Pieter Johnson, PhD (Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
Pieter Johnson, PhD, teaches Introduction to General Biology. Johnson allots time during his large lectures for students to work in small groups to figure out problems. His Introduction to General Biology course team implements online homework assignments.
Myles Osborne, PhD (Professor, History)
Myles Osborne, PhD, teaches History 1228, Sub Saharan Africa, to 100 students. Osborne strives to demonstrate to his students his commitment to his students’ learning. He also makes a point to connect with students during class time. Osborne makes eye contact with students while lecturing and walks around the room to reach different groups of students.
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