Asee peer logo

Techniques For Teaching Large Classes

Download Paper |


1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.400.1 - 2.400.4

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Philip R. Dail

Download Paper |

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

Session 1213

Techniques For Teaching Large Classes

Philip R. Dail North Carolina State University

Large classes are generally harder to teach effectively than small classes. The number that qualifies a class as large is not clearly defined, but most believe that a class of more than 100 qualifies. The idea that small classes automatically solve communication problems between students and teachers is false. Most students will agree that a large class with a good teacher is certainly better than a small class with an ineffective one.

Having taught as many as 325 students in one class, I have discovered a variety of instructional strategies for making large classes work reasonably well. Many of the ideas I will share are common practices to experienced educators. My intention is that these ideas will prove helpful to those with less experience.

Pre-First Day

(1) Plan a first-day activity. Nothing is more frustrating to a student than to feel “left out” or at least “in the dark” at the first class meeting. In a class where intimidation due to size is already a factor, spending the first class pouring over a syllabus is probably not an effective means of engaging the class. Having them scan the syllabus in groups of 2 or 3 and prepare questions about what they did not understand is one means of involving them in the process. Definitely have some activity planned for the first day other than just discussing the syllabus. (2) Course packs prepared ahead of time make class participation and interaction more feasible. Also, for large classes (and for small ones!) course packs reduce the “busy work” of students trying to transcribe every word a teacher utters. Course packs also relay a message to students that the instructor is interested in their success since the course pack took time and effort to prepare. (3) Order the textbook well ahead of time. Students (and you) have enough stress to deal with; neither needs the extra stress caused by such issues as “do I need the book for the first assignment—it’s not in yet.” (4) Provide instructional objectives in the syllabus so they will know what is expected of them. Instead of just listing the topics to be covered, give students concrete statements of the skills they will be expected to possess by the end of the course such as calculate, explain, design, etc. These objectives help the students prepare to meet the instructor’s expectations because they now know what is expected and the objectives also keep the teacher on track with both content and testing.

Dail, P. R. (1997, June), Techniques For Teaching Large Classes Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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: © 1997 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