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Teaching In Large Classes – Making Them Active And Small Like

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade for Teaching I

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1210.1 - 10.1210.5



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Paper Authors

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Jerry Samples

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

Teaching in Large Classes – Making Them Active and Small Like Jerry W. Samples University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown


A paper on large classes and their operation can do two things: inform faculty about the necessary steps to success; or scare faculty away from the large classes. Large classes present opportunities for success, and for failure. This paper is designed to provide faculty with the tools needed to make the first steps toward successful teaching in the large classroom setting.


Large classes are a problem to everyone who teaches in them; some realize this and others do not. For years, the idea of making large classes operate like small ones has been offered by a number of authors.1-6 In recent years, web sites have been developed to discuss the problems associated with large classes: strategies, preparation, organization, assessment, learning styles and teaching styles, notes, structure and management. Finding the web sites is easy, just Google™ using “teaching large classes” and a plethora of excellent sites become immediately available, i.e.7,8 The bottom line is the same in every reference: it takes work to make large classes operate efficiently. All point to some basic fundamentals of teaching and all conclude that the success is based on the skills of the teacher and the preparation devoted to making the large class seem small. Some indicate that multiple teaching methodologies can be used, including; cooperative learning strategies1,4 and interactive strategies.6 All indicate that failure is possible in large classes.


There are several challenges when teaching in large classes. The first, and most important, is to make student learning approach that of students in smaller classes. It is only fair that professors respect the needs of students and provide them with the learning opportunity they deserve. Students have the right to expect a level of teaching and assistance that provides a fair opportunity for them to learn and be successful in every course they take.

One way to assist the students in the learning process is to keep them involved. In the large classroom this is often placed on the “too hard” pile. Professors feel that the only way to get the message across is to lecture, every minute of the class. They feel that the class will be too unruly and that control will be a problem. They feel that students are not interested in interactive learning - so why expend the extra effort to make the class interactive?. Finally, professors feel that the students are sensitive to being asked questions, or otherwise participating, so in order to avoid hurting feelings, interactive classroom procedures are forfeited.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Samples, J. (2005, June), Teaching In Large Classes – Making Them Active And Small Like Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14187

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