June 28, 1998
June 28, 1998
July 1, 1998
3.163.1 - 3.163.7
Cooperative Learning Strategies for Large Classes
Sudhir Mehta North Dakota State University
The last decade has brought increasing budget pressures on higher education systems. At many institutions, this has led to an increase in the number and size of large classes, which is generally not favored by students, parents, and faculty. However, at institutions, where large classes are a fact of life we are professionally obligated to focus on instructor and student needs and do whatever we can to improve teaching and learning in those classes.
The results of a national survey, conducted to determine how many institutions offer large engineering classes, indicate that 47% offer large size classes. It is also estimated that 76% of the engineering students attend at least one large class. Most of the large classes are offered at an introductory level and during the first two years of curriculum. The research shows that the student attrition rate is higher during their first two years. However, the research also indicates that effectively taught large classes are perceived better by students than some of the small size classes.
This paper describes several cooperative learning strategies which have been researched, tested, and proven to be effective in large classes. The strategies help in increasing class participation, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaborative learning,attention, and attendance. Over 80 to 90 percent of the students indicate that these strategies are useful in enhancing the teaching-learning process in large classes.
Cooperative learning involves students working in groups on problems or projects such that it fosters positive interdependence, individual accountability, leadership, decision making, communication, and conflict management skills . Research indicates that cooperative learning also enhances short-term mastery, long-term retention, understanding of course material, critical thinking, and problem solving skills . Recent literature [1-3] suggests a number of cooperative learning strategies, however, many of these strategies may not be as effective or practical in large classes because of the larger number of students. Teaching a large class itself is challenging. Introducing cooperative learning strategies in large classes is even more challenging. Felder  has described some innovative techniques including cooperative learning strategies for effectively teaching large classes. This paper describes some other cooperative learning strategies that were used in large Statics classes and provides results of student feedback on those strategies.
Mehta, S. (1998, June), Cooperative Learning Strategies For Large Classes Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. https://peer.asee.org/6990
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