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Engaging Large Classes: Strategies and Techniques for College Faculty

ISBN: 978-1-119-11124-5
384 pages
October 2001, Jossey-Bass
Engaging Large Classes: Strategies and Techniques for College Faculty (1119111242) cover image


Large classes have become a fact of life in colleges and universities across America; even as academic funding has decreased, class enrollments have continued to rise. Although students, teachers, and administrators are often concerned by the potentially negative impact of uneven teacher-to-student ratios, large classes also offer many potential advantages that are less recognized and not always maximized.

In Engaging Large Classes, the authors demonstrate that large classes can be just as stimulating and rewarding as smaller classes. Written by experienced teachers of large classes across a wide range of disciplines and institutions, this book provides faculty members and administrators with instructional strategies and advice on how to enhance large class settings.

This book summarizes many of the core issues related to successfully teaching large classes, including

  • An honest review of the advantages and disadvantages of large classes
  • Advice on how to design, plan, manage, and fairly assess large classes
  • The universality of large-class issues across disciplines, from classroom management to working with teaching assistants
  • Strategies for using classroom technology, active learning, and collaborative learning
  • Seventeen detailed examples of large classes from a range of higher education institutions

The authors not only present an overview of research on teaching large classes, they also equip readers with helpful insight into the mechanics of large-class pedagogy. This book has the potential to change the way academia views the reality of teaching large classes.

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Table of Contents

About the Editors.

About the Contributors.

Topic Location Guide.


Part One: Key Concepts.

Chapter 1. Course Design for Large Classes: A Learning-Centered Approach (Judith Grunert O'Brien).

Chapter 2. That's Not a Large Class; It's a Small Town: How Do I Manage? (Lynda G. Cleveland).

Chapter 3. Planning and Assessing Large Classes (Michael Theall and Raoul A. Arreola).

Chapter 4. Promoting Civility in Large Classes (Mary Deane Sorcinelli).

Chapter 5. Engaging Students Actively in Large Lecture Settings (Peter J. Frederick).

Chapter 6. Team Learning in Large Classes (Larry K. Michaelsen).

Chapter 7. Learning in the Dark: Applying Classroom Technology to Large Lecture Formats (Michael Smilowitz and Anne S. Gabbard-Alley).

Chapter 8. Teaching for Inclusion (Mathew L. Ouellett).

Chapter 9. Working with Teaching Assistants and Undergraduate Peer Facilitators to Address the Challenges of Teaching Large Classes (Jean Civikly-Powell and Donald H. Wulff).

Chapter 10. Maintaining Intimacy : Strategies for the Effective Management of TAs in Innovative Large Classes (Leta F. Deithloff).

Chapter 11.Teaching the Large Class: An Administrator's Perspective (J. Douglas Andrews).

Chapter 12. Teaching Large Classes: A Brief Review of the Research (Christine A. Stanley and M. Erin Porter).

Part Two: Examples Across the Disciplines.


1. What I Wish I had Known Before I Taught a Large Class (Emily Hoover).


2. A Management Lesson (Steven Tomlinson).

3. Eleven Very Basic Tips for Teaching Large Business Classes (Tom Campbell).

Clincial Sciences.

4. Teaching Large Classes in Pharmacy Practice (James McAuley and Marialice Bennett).

5. Teaching Large Classes in Veterinary Medicine (Laurie A. Jaeger and Deborah Kochevar).


6. Making Large Classes Small Through Creative Teaching (John R. Hoyle).


7. A Learning-Focused Approach to a Large-Section Engineering Course (Robert Lundquist).

8. Getting Students in a Technical Class Involved in the Classroom (Doug Jacobson).


9. Managing Discussion in Large Classes (J. Dennis Huston).


10. Defying the Norms: Teaching Large Law School Classes in Accordance with Good Pedagogy (Derrick Bell).


11. Mathematics and the Large Class: Meeting and Mastering the Challenge (Nancy J. Simpson).


12. Strength in Numbers: Making the Large Chemistry Lecture Class Work (Brian P. Coppola).

13. What My Students Have Taught Me (Brent L. Iverson).

14. Large-Class Instruction: Having a Private Conversation in a Crowded Room (James H. Stith).

Social and Behavioral Sciences.

15. Personalizing the Large Class in Psychology (Richard P. Halgin and Christopher E. Overtree).

16. Teaching Social Science to a Small Society (Linda B. Nilson).

17. Transforming the Horde (Robin Nagle).

Summary of Key Concepts for Teaching Large Classes (M. Erin Porter and Christine A. Stanley).



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Author Information

Christine A. Stanley is Assistant Professor Higher Education Administration in the Department of Educational Administration and Human resource Development, and Associate Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Texas A&M University. She has also served as president (2000-2001) and chair of the Diversity Commission (1994-1998) of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Networking Higher Education, the North American organization dedicated to faculty, organizational, and instructional development issues in higher education. Prior to joining the faculty at Texas A&M University, she was Associate director of Faculty and TA Development and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership at The Ohio State University, where she received the Distinguished Staff Award in 1999. She is the recipient of the Texas A&M University College of Education Development Council's Outstanding New Faculty Award (2000-2001).
A biologist, teacher, consultant, and faculty developer, she has taught courses on college teaching, professional development, and diversity and social justice in higher education. She is a consultant to many colleges and universities on faculty development, and multicultural faculty and TA development initiatives in higher education.
She has contributed numerous articles on faculty development to such publications as Journal on Excellence in College Teaching; Journal of Staff, Program, and Organizational Development; and To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development and has an extensive record of presentations and professional organization service.

M. Erin Porter is Senior Lecturer in the Department of management Science and Information Systems at The University of Texas, Austin. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in business communication in the red McCombs School of Business and is departmental coordinator for the undergraduate multi-section business communication course. Prior to her current appointment, she was Director of Faculty Programs at the Center for Teaching Effectiveness at the University o f Texas, Austin. She has published in The Journal of Staff, Program, and Organizational Development; To Improve the Academy, and has a chapter in Practically Speaking: A Sourcebook for Instructional Consultants in Higher Education. She cowrote Business Communication, a textbook published by the American Press. She received the student generated Eyes of Texas Award for fall semester 2001.
She has been a tenured Associate Professor of Speech Communication at Southwest Texas State University where she was director for speech fundamentals and business speech coursed at two universities, director of the forensics program, taught graduate and undergraduate classes, and supervised graduate teaching assistants for large sections of introductory classes. She has been an adjunct professor at St. Edward's University and Austin Community College, as well as a consultant in the high-tech industry in Texas.
An educator, faculty developer, business consultant, and communication specialist, she has consulted on issues involving trends in communication skill sets for businesses, teams in the workplace, and interpersonal communication skills for business professionals, cross disciplinary teaching projects, and effective teaching methodology in university classrooms. She has authored articles on faculty development and business communication and has an extensive record of presentations, workshops, consulting assignments, and professional organization service.

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