3 tips for teaching large classes

by Ilyoung Ju
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Ilyoung Ju

Ilyoung Ju

The number of large classes at universities has been increased due to the efficiency and the financial pressure of budget cuts from state legislatures. For this reason, it becomes important for instructors to have an ability to teach in a large class setting.

Teaching a large class can have several challenges:

  • Involving students in active learning.
  • Personalizing the class environment.
  • Working with diverse students’ needs and backgrounds.
  • Managing classroom disruptions.
  • Adapting one’s teaching style to the large lecture situation.

Here are some tips for being more successful in teaching a large class:
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Tips for handling large classes

by Nicki Karimipour
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Teaching a large class may not be ideal, but could become a necessary part of our teaching careers, especially at Research I institutions around the country. Based on the classroom poll, most of us consider a large class to range anywhere from 50 to100 (and more) students. Some auditoriums and lecture halls can accommodate hundreds of people.

I took some of the most common concerns from my classmates and organized them into five main categories.

Challenge #1 – Course organization

These are decisions you should be making before ever stepping foot into the auditorium or lecture hall – decisions about the syllabus and what topics will be covered in your course.

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7 tips to help you prepare to teach large auditorium clasess

Anthony Palomba
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

At first, teaching in large lecture halls with large enrollments can appear to be a daunting task for professors. Teaching already presents many potential challenges, and large lecture halls and class enrollments can exacerbate these elements, creating challenges for an inexperienced professor. 

However, if you are assigned to teach a lecture hall class, you should remember that this is an opportunity to meet undergraduates, many of whom may be freshman or sophomores.  In this case, teaching a class of this size and scope can help introduce you to a bevy of students, some of whom may decide to future classes with you or to ask you to be their advisor.

Additionally, the ability to manage classes in large lecture halls will serve you well when you make research presentations at conferences. 

Here are seven strategies to remember as you prep for a large lecture:

Tip #1 – Be sure to see all activities from the perspective of students.  It is crucial that you try to envision whether or not the type of methodologies and practices that you are implementing both inside and outside of the classroom will reach eighty to one hundred students or even more.

Tip # 2 – Develop an infrastructure in place so that students can get help and resources if they need it.  This will cut down on how many emails are sent to you or your teaching assistants.

Tip #3 – Implement a variety of class activities. Class activities will allow you to listen to student discussion, interact with groups, and hear from students who may present information in front of the class.  This will help you get to know your f students and serve as a way to ensure that the material is being grasped by students.

Tip # 4 – Realize that you will not be able to make a personal connection with every student.  However, every student will have an impression of how you teach and decide whether or not to take another class with you or request you as an advisor.

Tip # 5 – Learn to appreciate lecture halls. By structuring a curriculum with larger introductory courses, upper-division classes can have a much smaller class size. Additionally, large lecture classes serve as practice for conference and research presentations.

Tip # 6 – Have teaching assistants. If possible, have several teacher’s assistants who have either taken the course beforehand or are knowledgeable enough on the topic in order to competently assist in the management of the class.

Tip # 7 – Investigate the lecture hall or auditorium you are assigned to teach in.  There may be issues regarding the acoustics, location of doors, and lighting, as well as how PowerPoint images appear against the wall or screen provided in the room.

For more resources, please follow the following links and academic citations:

Academic Studies
Carbone, E., & Greenberg, J. (1998).  Teaching large classes: Unpacking the problem and responding creatively.  In M. Kaplan (Ed.), To improve the academy, vol. 17, Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press and the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education

Wulff, D. H., Nyquist, J. D., & Abbot, R. D. (1987). Teaching large classes well. In New Directions for Teaching and Learning (Vol. 32, pp. 17-30). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cooperative Learning
Paulson, D. R., & Faust, J. L. (2008). Background and Definitions. In Active Learning for the College Classroom. Retrieved April 2, 2013, from http://www.calstatela.edu/dept/chem/chem2/Active/#group

One-Minute Paper
Bressoud, D. M. (2013). In The One-Minute Paper. Retrieved April 13, 2013, from http://www.maa.org/saum/maanotes49/87.html

Formulate Share Listen Create
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (1991). Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Edina, MI: Interaction Book Co.

Anthony Palomba is a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).