March 4, 2021
Hi CNS Instructors,
For this week’s teaching tip, I share a posting on the University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning site focusing on large lecture instruction. Several of you know firsthand that teaching large enrollment courses presents some unique challenges. This post provides a list of best practices gleaned from research and discussion by the “Engaging Students in Large Classes: High Tech and Low Tech Strategies” learning community assembled at UW, Seattle. The strategies were binned into “preparing”, “teaching” and “evaluating”. The general principles this group developed are as follows:
- Design around brief, meaningful and concrete learning goals. You will need to communicate and work with them with many students.
- Develop a comprehensive syllabus and do not deviate from it. Every change you make after the syllabus is published is an opportunity for misunderstanding multiplied by 100+ students.
- Clearly communicate to TAs and students with premeditated messages. Building messages in advance gives you time to make sure they are clear and unambiguous.
- Humanize yourself and your subject matter to students. Large classes can create distance and division between students and teachers.
- Encourage active learning and productive struggle. Studies have shown that requiring students to be active participants in the creation of knowledge, rather than passive receivers, improves learning outcomes.
- Keep innovation simple and limited. The logistical complexity of implementing innovative teaching strategies in a large lecture is much greater than in a small class.
- Strive, plan and provide opportunities to include everyone. Large classes multiply the opportunities for people to be left out.
- Make sure your assessments support your learning goals. The more closely assessments track learning goals, the more easily students will understand their purpose.
Next week is halfway through the spring semester!
Stay healthy and sane, Paul
Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Director, W2R S-STEM Program
Director, NoCo B2B Program
Director, REU Site in Molecular Biosciences