Large Courses

Lurkers, Surfers, and Free-riders: Is Under-Participation a Problem?

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies The group project regularly begets under-participation. No student situation in college teaching better illustrates the free-rider phenomenon. Perhaps Homer Simpson demonstrates the free-rider phenomenon best. Individuals who receive collective benefits without contributing are common in group work. One or more students in a group project can easily slack off while only one student fulfills the

How to Get Away with Murder, or How to Kill Student Participation

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies There is a television show on ABC where a professor takes five students under the wing. The teacher is charismatic, unconventional and named Professor Keating. The plot quickly differs from that of the earlier Professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society, except for one thing: both of them get away with murder.

Can Multiple Choice Tests Promote Learning?

In “Multiple Choices,” a post on the blog Practicum: Critical Theory, Religion, and Pedagogy, Russell McCutcheon ponders how multiple choice tests facilitate learning in large introductory courses: But what about the multiple choice tests? Well, like that definition assignment . . . it’s more about how they study for it and how they come to

Building Community in Large Courses

Building community in the classroom involves establishing a mutual respect between the instructor and students, fostering meaningful peer-to-peer connections, and creating an environment that values diversity. This may sound like a tall order for large classes, but a vibrant classroom community could enhance the big class experience for everyone. Not sure where to start? Here are some

Establishing Classroom Culture

A healthy classroom culture requires more than routines and procedures. It also involves balancing your authority as the instructor, maximizing classroom efficiency, and motivating students to achieve. Holly Grout, a professor of history, and Natalie Dautovich, a professor of psychology, offer tips for creating a positive classroom culture in large courses. Make your expectations clear “Clarity is key.

Providing Feedback in Large Courses

In a large course with limited TA assistance, it may seem impossible to offer students meaningful feedback on their progress. In this post, faculty members describe how they use office hours, technology, and TAs to provide appropriate feedback in their large courses. Office Hours Kim Caldwell: Some students come to my office truly wanting to learn how to learn, and we have great

Mentoring Graduate Teaching Assistants

As the supervising faculty member, you have the opportunity to shape your graduate teaching assistants’ development as educators, as well as how they support your role as the professor. We asked several faculty members how they guide GTAs in managing the classroom, interacting with students, and otherwise balancing the pressures of teaching. Here’s what they had

Teaching Complex Topics in Large Courses

by Kevin Shaughnessy, Department of Chemistry My large class assignments are organic chemistry, which is one of the more challenging lower-level courses that science and pre-health students will take. There is a large volume of material that is highly interconnected. My goals in the class are for them to not only know basic facts, but also

Engaging Students in Large Courses

If student learning depends on engagement, then it should be one of our top priorities in the classroom. But how do you foster interest, curiosity, and excitement in large courses for which the lecture is standard? Know Students’ Names Matthew Dolliver: I use a number of techniques to help keep students engaged. First, knowing students’ names draws

Active Learning in Large Math Courses

by Brendan Ames, Department of Mathematics I try to involve my students in my lectures as much as possible. When “discovering” a new formula or method in class, I will usually begin by leading my students in a brief brainstorming session. This is typically in the form of a very informal call and response, where I