There are many challenges in teaching a large class, many of them pedagogical. Let’s consider a few points:
- In large classes, the sheer number of course participants will ensure that you are delivering a message to a mixed audience. One group of students may already have selected to major in your subject area, based on previous exposure. Others might be there to fulfill a distribution requirement, perhaps taking the class pass/fail. There may be those students uncertain of their interest in the subject area, there to test interest and proficiency in the topic. These are all valid reasons to learn. How can you keep each type of student equally engaged? How can you accommodate students’ needs and reasons for taking your class?
- In large classes, students may feel increasingly passive, even invisible, as enrollment and classroom size increases. How can you know what they are taking away from your lectures, or where there are gaps in understanding? How can you interact with the students in a timely manner, and have them feel a connection to each other, while deflecting the distraction of their personal devices?
- Large classes will inevitably present you with students who are diverse: culturally, physically, and in their personal learning styles. How can you vary your teaching to engage the attention of those who might more quickly apprehend the material through various means of delivery?
- Large lecture halls may have architectural challenges. Class late-comers might, by necessity, have to sit in a seat where their view of the projection screen is not the best. Poor acoustics can limit understanding – particularly for non-native speakers or those who have difficulty hearing. How can you overcome the physical and technical challenges in a classroom that may have been designed for a different type—perhaps even in a different century–of teaching conventions?