Thursday, April 06, 2006

teaching strategies

I know there are several academics in the blogosphere, and I direct this question to you.

Suppose you have a lecture class with 500 students. You meet 3 times a week for 50 minutes a session. In this case, the class is an introductory science course, which is semi-relevant. Probably 90% of your students have never had any of this material before: all new terminology, images they don't recognize etc. They also have a separate weekly lab where they can start applying their new knowledge, actually touching and seeing these bits with their own eyes.

How would you set up your lecture?

Would you use powerpoint or the chalkboard/whiteboard, or a combination? How do you engage as many students as possible in a 500 person class? Is it possible to have anything resembling a 'discussion' or any real feedback in that setting?

Thankfully I'm not the one in front of the room. I am a lab TA however, and the lecturers are interested in the input of the TAs to try and improve the class. I personally favor using powerpoint, with the caveat that you must avoid 'wall of text' syndrome. Intersperse the factual slides with images illustrating your point.

Opinions or ideas? There is a very real chance that somewhere down the line I *will* be the one in front of a class this big. May as well start planning for it now.


At 12:33 AM, Blogger BrightStar said...

The one time I guest lectured in a lecture hall, I tried to do some interactive activities, and this is what I learned: You have to be very effective at teaching them to transition, otherwise asking them to turn to a partner and discuss something and then bringing them back to the large group to discuss can take a VERY long time. There must be some specific classroom management techniques that can make this easier, I would guess, but I don't know them! Also, students are pretty intimidated to participate in front of hundreds of others during large group discussion, I noticed, particularly when they're not used to doing so (since I was a drop-in guest lecturer, I hadn't developed norms over time with them such that they were used to participating in discussions in that setting).

Alternatively, a good way to get individual engagement from students is to have a small quick write at the end of class or sometime during class, or even a mini-quiz, to get feedback on what the students got out of the lecture.

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

500 people! I wouldn't even know where to begin. I occassionally speak in front of fairly large groups, but a group that big...I don't know. When I have been a part of the 500 (at conferences). It seems for me any way, that some tactful humor once in awhile helps.

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At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like lecturing to a large class, and I haven't had to for a long time. Most of the people I know who do it a lot use powerpoint. If I was going to do it, I would want both a computer projection unit (for some powerpoint, etc stuff) and a document cam (to use in place of a chalk/whiteboard. There are also some things that have been developed recently where you can ask multiple choice questions in class, and have everyone key in their answers, and the data of how many gave what answers shows up on a computer in the front of the classroom, which sounds like a really good way to do interactive stuff with large groups


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