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Large Group Teaching Strategies

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Here are some strategies for teaching in large groups:

Facilitating large class environments is a challenge. Large classes and lecture halls impose physical and logistical constraints on what a lecturer can physically do. Large classes on Zoom can sometimes feel like speaking into a void of black boxes. Moore and Gilmartin (2010) describe teaching large classes as ‘the intersection of entertainment and crowd control’. Oftentimes lecturers in large classes feel pressure to be a “performer”. There are tried and trusted techniques to keep students engaged during the course of a large group lecture which include interactive activities as well as active student engagement and peer mentoring approaches.

Wisehunt et al. (2017) suggest three strategies for managing expectations in large classes:

  • encouraging active student engagement
  • reducing students’ feelings of anonymity
  • providing individualised feedback

While increasing student numbers and class sizes invariably mean teaching to large groups, this does not exclude the possibility of engaging students in active learning and encouraging a deeper approach to learning. Large group teaching, if carefully organised and implemented, can cause more active learning in students.

Large Group Assessment Strategies

Assessment can also feel challenging in large group settings. Often there are unsaid expectations and assumptions around feedback (for both students and staff.) It’s important to be transparent and clear in explaining your assessment and feedback strategies in large group settings. Surfacing expectations can relieve many of the frustrations that can occur related to assessment. Intentionally reviewing and explaining the Assessment Strategy and Assessment Feedback in the module descriptor is encouraged.

Utilising peer review (which is a UCD approved assessment strategy) can be an experience which embeds both active learning and meaningful growth and development opportunities. Explaining why and how you’re using peer review can go a long way in helping students understand that peer review is assessment as learning and an effective way to facilitate knowledge growth and sharing in large group settings.

Case Study: Peer Assisted Mentoring

One technique for managing large classes is to sub-divide the class into more manageable groups using peer-assisted mentoring, such as the use of students more advanced (e.g. post-graduate students) to mentor undergraduate students. In peer-assisted learning, there is an educational gain for both the mentoring students and the mentees while both groups of students are given modular credit for their respective roles in the educational arrangement. 

An example of peer-assisted mentoring in the School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering is described at the link below. The undergraduate module in question is Creativity in Design (CVEN10040) and the postgraduate module is Innovation Leadership (CVEN40390). The Creativity in Design module provides an active-learning engineering experience through which students develop their observation skills, problem solving skills and lateral thinking abilities.  Read about the Creativity in Design module in Five UCD Case Studies: 1st Year Assessment Design.

Video - Large Group Teaching Strategies

Watch our short presentation of tips and techniques for large group teaching strategies from our Teaching Toolkit Thursday series of webinars:

References