4 tips for teaching large lecture courses

by Gillian Wheat
PhD student, University of Florida

Professors assigned to teach large lecture courses are faced with the challenge of delivering engaging lectures to a large number of students on a regular basis.  Although this may seem daunting, it is not an insurmountable task.

Keeping these four aspects of teaching large lecture courses in mind can help professors make sure they are being effective.

Tip #1 — Holding the students’ attention

Holding the attention of students is vital to the success of a large lecture course.  Professors can do so by perfecting their delivery and displaying a positive attitude.  Varying the structure of each lesson is another way to keep the students engaged.

 Tip # 2 — Promote active learning

Including opportunities for active learning within a lecture will encourage the students to learn how to think about the material being covered.  Tactics that can be used to facilitate active learning include question posting, learning cells, and the pause procedure.

Tip # 3 — Discourage anonymity of students

Students who feel like they matter are more likely to feel a sense of responsibility in a large lecture course.  Professors may not be able to memorize the name of every student, but doing something as simple as arriving early to chat with students can make a difference.

Tip #4 — Be organized

Being organized and planning ahead are extremely important when teaching a large lecture course.  Professors must set clear expectations and figure out how to successfully communicate with students both inside and outside class.

Here are a few books that contain useful insight for professors who are assigned to teach a large lecture course:

  • McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers.
  • Engaging Large Classes: Strategies and Techniques for College Faculty.
  • What’s the Use of Lectures?

Gillian Wheat is a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

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