1 June, 2016
Active learning is a learning activity in which students get involved with course content in a meaningful way.
Here are some examples of active learning methods that are helpful for large lectures:
- Use classroom polls to ask questions that review the lecture’s main ideas.Classroom response technologies such as i>clickers facilitate the collection of student answers electronically enabling immediate feedback.
- Poll students’ prior knowledge by using a one-minute paper at the beginning of class to gauge their existing knowledge on the topic. The common way to do this is by asking questions like “Today we’re discussing photosynthesis. Write down anything that comes to mind when you think of photosynthesis“.
- Check for understanding by using a Think-Pair-Share exercise: prepare a comprehension question ahead of time, ask students to discuss the answer with a partner, and sample the class for responses (g., “Do you think photosynthesis stops when the sun goes down? Why or why not?”).
- Integrate avideo clip into the lecture that presents a main concept. Ask students to guess what will happen before watching; and have them answer to a question with a partner after viewing the video.
Even though there are significantly more students to manage in large lecture courses, it is still possible to finish short activities that give chances for students to get involved with the material in meaningful ways.
How to manage active learning in large classes:
- Display learning activity directions on a presentation slide.
- While students are busy with the given task, both you and your TAs can roam around and answer any questions.
- Signal the end of the activity by turning the lights off and on, or by making a sound (e.g. clapping, ringing a bell) to redirect students’ attention to you.
- Take a moment to debrief by asking a few students to share their thoughts.
- Move on to the next part of your lecture.
Integrating active learning strategies in large lecture classes will consume more time than delivering content through lecture alone, but utilizing these techniques will help you to achieve your class learning outcomes. Let student learning guide your decisions about the amount of course content to cover.
However, if covering a large amount of content is a concern, consider giving content to students outside of class in order to reserve some class time for active learning activities. You can possibly:
- Assign a video to watch.
- Require reading beforehand (Crouch & Mazur, 2001).
- Create a pre-class reading quiz that must be finished before attending the lecture (this can be done on Blackboard).