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Large lecture classes are a reality at most higher education institutions. Institutions, in response to budget restrictions and rising enrollments, have had to increase student-teacher ratios. And educators have, as a result, had to adapt to these changing environments.
This makes for quite the challenge, as pedagogy is mostly centered around smaller scale teaching environments and the strengths of smaller classrooms (for example, learning everyone’s name quickly!) cannot always be mirrored in a large class.
For many students, it can be shocking to enter a lecture hall filled with one hundred other students, let alone seven hundred other students in an overflowing auditorium, such as in this scenario (or this). It’s an odd feeling for students to go from an intimate high school classroom to a situation where they become one in a sea of faces--where if they don’t attend lectures, they feel they’ll hardly be missed. And this puts at-risk students in jeopardy.
Getting lost in a large lecture course may threaten a student’s sense of belonging, critical in a student’s first year at a higher education institution. In sum, even though strong faculty-student relationships are a predictor of student engagement, large lecture classes make meaningful connections an outlier.
Speaking of first-year students: many large lecture courses also happen to be introductory courses--which means they’re populated by first- and second-year students unfamiliar with such a format (and the necessary learning strategies).
Despite the above challenges, all is not so grim! And educators, always at the forefront of learning on the ground in classrooms, are innovating pedagogy and implementing new teaching methodologies in large scale settings.
So how can instructors enact best practices in large scale lecture courses? How can instructors reach every student and make sure to support learning in such an environment? What are best practices in large lecture class pedagogy?
The bottom line: pedagogy best practices haven’t changed in large lectures. What is different are the ways in which formative assessment, strong faculty-student relationships, mentorship, and active learning are achieved. You may not be able to greet every student coming into class and you may not be able to learn all their names--but you can still open the door into your classroom and make them feel seen and heard.