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Tips For Teaching Obscenely Large Lectures

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

New Faculty Issues and Concerns

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1198.1 - 8.1198.14



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Paper Authors

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Robert Montgomery

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Deborah Follman

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

Session 3275

Tips for Teaching Obscenely Large Lectures

Heidi Diefes-Dux, Deborah Follman, Robert Montgomery, William Oakes Purdue University

Abstract Teaching any class for the first time may be intimidating; but when that class is a lecture of 450 freshman engineering students, it is downright scary. Good teaching practices including the use of active and cooperative learning still apply; however, many scale with lecture size. For example, reviewing 450 “minute papers” takes considerable time, even if the students’ comments are brief. This paper will present techniques that will help you promote student learning while maintaining your sanity. We will show that despite lecture size you can still strive for assurance of student preparation for lecture, engagement of students during lecture, and creation of an overall environment conducive to learning and mutual respect. In the fall, we teach ENGR 106 - Introduction to Engineering Problem Solving and Computer Tools - to as many as 1500 students spread over only four lecture divisions. We will share the techniques we have found successful both in this class and in other large classes within our department. These techniques address student accountability and engagement while maintaining control (i.e. avoiding mob-behavior) and include: “readiness assessment tests” to ensure that students read the textbook before coming to class; active learning; undergraduate lecture teaching assistants; distribution and collection of materials as well as post-lecture review of submitted work; making the environment more friendly through music and videos; integration of learning communities; and classroom representatives and team minute papers to create a manageable student feedback mechanism. This paper will present the perspectives of a new faculty member teaching for the first time and of more experienced instructors of large classes.

Introductory Comments One can imagine the worries of a new professor teaching for the first time: How do I write a good test? How do I keep the lectures interesting? Are my expectations of the students reasonable? What if the students don’t like me? These worries were certainly going through our minds as we each prepared to teach sections of “Engineering Problem Solving and Computer Tools” to a group of freshman engineering students for the first time. But as each of us walked into the lecture hall on the first day of our classes, our worries turned to panic - in front of us were the optimistic faces of 450 freshman engineers! What would we do if the students didn’t stop talking when we began the lecture? How could we possibly distribute 450 papers without taking up the entire class period? One student dropped a piece of paper down the steps and one of us envisioned an all-out paper airplane fight and riot. How could we possibly read 450 One- Minute Papers?1

Luckily none of us were alone. With three other freshman engineering faculty, we abated these

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Diefes-Dux, H., & Montgomery, R., & Oakes, W., & Follman, D. (2003, June), Tips For Teaching Obscenely Large Lectures Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11954

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