Asee peer logo

Establishing Real Engagement In Large Mechanics Lectures

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Teaching Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.584.1 - 14.584.15



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Benson Tongue University of California, Berkeley

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Establishing Real Engagement in Large Mechanics Lectures


Teaching a large mechanics class poses some obvious challenges if the professor is interested in more than simply speaking in front of a class and hoping that some knowledge transmission takes place. Indeed, this aspect of traditional lecturing, one person declaiming at hopefully engaged but oftentimes bored students, is what has engendered much of the criticism heard from students and education researchers and has driven the creation of alternative teaching strategies. This paper will attempt to accomplish two objectives: discuss ways in which a traditional lecture can be made more compelling to its audience and also present approaches that will help transform the large lecture dynamic into something more akin to a seminar.

Introduction The problems (and opportunities) facing an instructor with a large class can be illuminated by looking at the similarities (and differences) between a large lecture class and a classical Greek theatre [5], such as the one illustrated below.

Figure 1: Greek amphitheatre/Lecture hall comparison

What is the same? In both cases we have a small group of people, in our case just the teacher and in the theatre a small troupe, speaking to a large group of people who are arranged in row upon row of seats looking down upon teacher/actor. When done well, the line between lectures and performance will, and should, become blurred [10].

Greek actors had no difficulty in engaging their listeners because they were presenting an engrossing drama or comedy and the audience was there in order to hear it. Our task is more challenging because the material often isn’t inherently compelling and exciting. Their audiences came voluntarily whereas ours are compelled by graduation requirements. It’s the rare student who’ll voluntarily opt for Mechanics of Rigid Bodies over an episode of The Office.

Tongue, B. (2009, June), Establishing Real Engagement In Large Mechanics Lectures Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4809

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015