Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Preparing to Teach Large Classes: Strategies to Promote Active Learning
Originator R. Heather Macdonald
Department Department of Geology, College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA
Email rhmacd@facstaff.wm.edu


Instructors who teach large classes commonly use lectures even though the traditional lecture format is more likely to promote passive listening than active, independent learning. However, several strategies can be used in large lecture-based courses to increase student involvement in learning:

  1. Modify the lecture by adding short "spaces" between mini-lectures to give students an opportunity to process the material. For example, ask a question, then use think-pair-share, an activity in which all students in the class share their responses with a classmate. When using visuals or doing demonstrations, involve students by asking them to describe, explain, predict, summarize, or interpret.
  2. Give out-of-class assignments such as homework, questions for discussion, or short writing assignments.
  3. Get feedback from students about the class. For example, have students write about the most important point of the lecture or ask a question about the lecture.
  4. Provide opportunities for student-faculty and student-student interaction such as personalized responses on tests, study groups, various types of electronic communication, and opportunities for interested students to participate on projects.

Graduate students interested in a teaching career can learn about various teaching strategies in a variety of ways (observation, departmental discussions, campus teaching centers, science education journals, and workshops) and can use them in various teaching settings (as a teaching assistant, discussion leader, guest lecturer, and classroom teacher).

Keywords:

Active learning
Large classes
Interactive lectures


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Page created 5 June 2000
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