Initial Publication Date: June 16, 2006

Teaching Large Classes

Teaching large classes is particularly challenging, and newer faculty are likely to be assigned to teach at least a few of them. The resources below can help you keep your students actively engaged and minimize the time you spend grading, effectively and efficiently.

Jump down to: Keeping students engaged in large lecture classes * Making technology work for you * Getting groups to work well

Keeping students engaged in large lecture classes

Large lecture halls impose physical and logistical constraints on what you can do effectively. But there are tried and true techniques to keep students interested:

  • Interactive Lecture techniques can be used in any size classroom, as can Just-in-Time Teaching. (These links take you to the Starting Point pages on teaching techniques.) Interactive lectures are lectures interspersed with brief in-class activities that require students to use the information or concepts presented in the lecture. In Just-in-Time Teaching, students respond electronically to web-based assignments, due a few hours before class. The instructor then briefly reviews student responses to see what to focus on during the class period.
  • Beating the Numbers Game: Effective Teaching in Large Classes lists in-class activities, out-of-class group exercises, and other ideas for keeping students engaged in large classes. The author, Richard Felder, is a chemical engineering professor at North Carolina State University, and an active researcher on the topic of how people learn.
  • How to Create Memorable Lectures offers tips on getting and keeping students' attention and giving them opportunities to review and apply important concepts. This article is from Rick Reis' Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List.
  • Postings from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor" Mailing List:
  • The effective use of technology and group work are two ways to enhance large classes, increase student engagement, and minimize the time you spend grading.... See the next sections of this page for details.

Making technology work for you

As technology becomes more complex, it becomes more daunting. But it can also be quite helpful. Here are some examples of time-saving, effort-saving technologies proven to be effective in teaching, especially in assessment.

Getting groups to work well

Many students, particularly high-achievers, resist group work. Yet the ability to work well in a group is an essential skill for most college graduates. In addition, students who learn in collaborative settings both learn and retain 1.5 times as much as students who learn individually (Johnson et al., 1998).