Encouraging Participation in Large Classes
Contributed by: Mina Azimi
Many issues can arise as class size increases. A large classroom is not conducive for instructor-student interactions and this lack of personal attention causes students to feel anonymous and isolated. This, in turn, has been shown to cause a drop in motivation, less involvement, poorer attendance, and an increase in distracting behaviors, such as talking, texting, using social media, etc. Even if attendance can be accounted for in some way, students are still likely to adopt a passive role during class since they feel invisible given being surrounded by a crowd of people. They may have shown up physically, but that doesn’t mean they are present mentally.
From the instructor’s perspective, a big issue is having to teach to a large, diverse group in which one style of teaching may not work for everyone. There’s an idea of there being different teaching styles for different people, and unfortunately, large classrooms don’t allow for tailored-teaching styles that can occur in smaller class settings. Also, most professors have a lot of material that needs to be covered in the allotted class time, which makes it difficult to make time for student input.
Nonetheless, there are ways to circumvent such issues. The instructor can take initiative to promote participation. One way is to dedicate 5 minutes of every lecture to allow for small group activities, think-pair-share sessions, or even class-wide discussions. Another is to motivate students with incentives, such as bonus points for their participation in class discussions. And finally, since we are in the age of technology, incorporating virtual aids can help encourage students to partake in the class. Things like clicker questions throughout lecture and having discussion forums available will promote more student involvement, and thus, greater their motivation for learning.