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Reducing Anonymity and Building Community in Large Classes

Reducing Anonymity and Building Community in Large Classes

5 June, 2016

Building community in large lecture classes is not only possible, but may lead to advantages such as a reduction of anonymity and an increase in student accountability.

Here are a few techniques:

1.      Get to know students

For larger classes, these ideas may be useful:

  • Compile a photo roster of the class. You can obtain photos by taking pictures in class or take one group photo and have students identify their faces.
  • When talking to students, ask for their name and then use their name in that interaction.
  • Use a class list to randomly call on names when you ask questions. Inform students on day one you will be doing this so they will expect it.
  • Remember a few students’ names every class and call on them in that class.
  • On the first day of class, ask students to write the following information on index cards: their names, their reasons for taking the course, and their expectations of it. Gather and review them. Keep these on file and refer to them whenever you have a meeting or interaction with a student.
  • Give chances for students to get to know each other
  • On the first day of class, have students turn to their seatmates and ask about their major, their year, and why they are taking the course.
  • If assigning group projects, provide class time for group work activities.
  • Have students to work on tasks in pairs or small groups throughout your lectures.

2.      Build an inclusive learning community

  • Think about how you can create a learning atmosphere that is respectful of all students, and is one in which students feel comfortable speaking and participating.
  • Add diversity and disability statements in your syllabus and draw attention to them.
  • Communicate your commitment to respectful communication by establishingclassroom ground rules. This way, students will be aware on the dos and don’ts in class.
  • Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of class for student announcements.

Effectively managing students

Having more students increases the probability of having to deal with student disruptions. Unfortunately, it may not always be possible to completely avoid classroom incivility or other interruptions, but being prepared and planning possible responses beforehand will help.

Here are some techniques:

  • Address incivility right away so that students can immediately stop any disruptive behavior.
  • Remain calm and criticize the behavior, not the individual. This will prevent a perception that they are being scolded personally.
  • Refer to agreed classroom norms that you may have added in your syllabus so that students can refer to these and realize their mistakes
  • Ask to speak to disruptive students after class.

A few strategies can decrease the likelihood of student misconduct, such as maintaining a positive, inclusive learning environment and keeping students involved.