This is a Purot.net wiki
Sivukartta

Part II. Challenges in Teaching a Large Class

WHAT CHALLENGES CAN A TEACHER EXPERIENCE WHEN TEACHING A LARGE CLASS?

Teaching in a large class has specific set of challenges a teacher can face. Dr. Ives suggests five categories these challenges fall into:

  1. “management of the paperwork: handing out, collecting, and recording tests and other assignments, make-up work;
  2. management of distractions: talking, late arrivals, early departures;
  3. perceived anonymity of the students: difficulty of learning names, of taking attendance, of getting students to come to class, of getting students to participate in class, of getting students to do assignments in a timely manner;
  4. lack of flexibility in class activities: difficulty in varying activities, in doing group work, in enhancing critical thinking and writing skill;
  5. diverse background and preparation of the students” (Ives).

Students in a large class are also likely to experience specific difficulties, among which are:

  1. “not knowing what is relevant or important information;
  2. hesitation in asking questions or in other ways indicating a lack of knowledge;
  3. hesitation in appearing “smart” to their peers (the nerd curse);
  4. lack of experience with time management, studying, or other skills necessary for success in college;
  5. perceived anonymity which allows them to challenge authority and to push boundaries” (Ives).

Therefore, in order to enhance teaching in a large class conditions for both teachers and students should be improved. In this section we will try to present typical challenges a teacher may face when working in a large class. We will also try to find ways to solve these challenges and improve the situation using technology and peer support.

CATEGORY

PARTICULAR

CHALLENGE

WAYS TO IMPROVE TEACHING

USING TECHNOLOGY

USING PEER SUPPORT

Management of the paperwork: handing out, collecting, and recording tests and other assignments, make-up work

 

 

Marking: grading assignments can be very time consuming (English Club).

"Technology can be good for handling the details of a large course that would otherwise occupy altogether too much time during the class meetings (e.g., collecting and returning homework and papers, posting test score distributions, making announcements, etc.)" (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

-

Preparation: making photocopies for a large class can be very time and resource consuming (English Club).

The teacher could share the material in the learning management system (text files, presentations, etc).

-

Textbooks and resources: there may not be enough textbooks or computers available for all students (English Club).

The teacher could make the study material available for students in the learning management system.

Students could work collaboratively having one computer in a team.

Management of distractions: talking, late arrivals, early departures

Anxiety: some teachers feel anxious being so outnumbered by the students (English Club).

Use of multimedia and visual content as means of support to explain complicated notions can decrease the level of anxiety.

A flipped classroom model could be used as well.

Work in small groups could be an option.

Distractions: there are more distractions for teachers in large classes, latecomers and people chatting (English Club). We think that this problem is mainly connected with the fact that students are not interested in the topic of the lecture, or the way of teaching is boring for them. Therefore, the solutions should improve the situation in such a way, that students' interest will be increased, as well as the level of their attention.

Technology can be used for making the class interesting and relevant to students' lives. Variety can be added to lectures (animations, slide shows, demos, video clips, music, guest speakers, etc.); as well as supplemental illustrations/examples that students cannot get any other place other than in class (Ives).

The handouts should not be self-explanatory - there should be plenty of space for students to take notes based on the lecture (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

PowerPoint should not be used as a projected-textbook, e.g. for putting finished information in front of students. PowerPoint text should not be projected - PowerPoint should be used to show visuals that cannot be drawn on the board (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

In large classes, many students will be seated far from the board at the front of the room. A drawing tablet or tablet PC allows to write on PowerPoint slides with a stylus pen to annotate or allows to simply use the computer projection system as a big, bright, multicolored whiteboard for hand-written notes and diagrams (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

In-class pair-share questions and pair or small group activities could be used (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

Perceived anonymity of the students: difficulty of learning names, of taking attendance, of getting students to come to class, of getting students to participate in class, of getting students to do assignments in a timely manner

Intimacy: remembering student's names can take a while (English Club), inability to get to know students and reduce students' feelings of anonymity (TEDI, 2003).

"The anonymity of students in large classes has been associated with students taking a more passive role and being less likely to participate with in-class activities, hoping that their lack of involvement will go unnoticed" (TEDI, 2003: 15).This statement demonstrates the negative effect of anonymity on active learning, the importance of which was duscussed in the Part I of the chapter.

Creating a Facebook group with all the members could be one way to improve this situation (it could make it easier for everyone to memorize faces and names).

-

Lack of flexibility in class activities: difficulty in varying activities, in doing group work, in enhancing critical thinking and writing skill

 

 

 

Student needs: meeting individual needs can be difficult or impossible when class size is very large. In addition, some students are afraid to ask questions or participate in a large class (English Club).

A teacher could share his/ her e-mail address for students to be able to ask for instructions (English Club).

A class newsgroup or an electronic mail list can be set up, where students can ask questions and get help from other students; a course web site could be created that contains practice problems, answers to sample test questions or homework, a glossary of terms, etc (Ives). A learning management system could be used for these purposes as well.

A teacher could send e-mails to everyone in the class from time to time to give them important information (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

A teacher could encourage the use of a class discussion/bulletin board by checking it often, and by responding promptly to student questions and concerns (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

The teacher could arrange peer groups, where in the end of each lecture students could discuss what they have understood and what they have not understood from the class and ask a teacher questions from a group.

Noise level: large classes can become out of hand when students are working in pairs or groups (English Club).

-

-

Monitoring students: teachers may find it difficult to keep students on task as they monitor pair and group work (English Club).

Classroom communication systems could be used.

Assigning a “secretary” who could sum up the result of the work in a short way could help.

Space: there is limited space in a classroom for energetic activities such as role-playing (English Club).

-

-

Diverse background and preparation of the students

Different level of achievement among students

Tasks from past exams could be put on the net (for example, in the learning management system) so that students can take a look at these exams to familiarize themselves with the format, the level of detail, amount of questions, etc. Students can self-test if the content from year to year is similar enough (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

Students can to be introduced to and taught to use discipline-specific software. It can provide important additional ways for visual learners to engage with difficult material (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

A teacher  could advise the students to form smaller study groups where they actively discuss the material; a teacher could also provide a room to be used as a "drop-in" room, which is less intimidating than a professor's office. A teacher could advise the students to get a tutor (or maybe even suggest someone) (The Harriet W. Sheridan Center For Teaching And Learning).

 

Although use of technology can contribute to teaching in large classes, it can at the same time cause technical problems, among which may appear the following:

  • too complex e-learning system;
  • server downtime;
  • setup problems;
  • some people do not have permissions to access;
  • wrong e-mail addresses;
  • file formats e.g. use .pdf instead of .docx;
  • presenting videos, programs, websites, examples, etc. does not work, even if tested before.

Discuss & brainstorm