Teaching Large Classes
Prepping for the First Day
Instructor preparation is crucial in large classes. It’s harder to wing-it in a large class and it’s a bigger logistical headache to make changes mid-course. Organization and consistency are key. Get organized early and stay organized. Create clear policies from the first day of class and stick with them.
Tips for Preparing to Teach a Large Class
Consult other faculty and instructors. Talk with faculty members who have taught the course you are teaching, or other large courses, for tips.
Access the class list. Get a feel for the group. Do you recognize the names of any students you taught previously? Having a few familiar faces in a large group can help anchor you in those first days of class. Are most of the students majors in this field or are many different majors represented? Becoming generally familiar with students–even when you can’t learn all names–can help you build rapport with a large class. See In-Class Learning.
If you have teaching assistants, meet with them the week before class begins. Teaching assistants can play a crucial role in classroom management and assessment for large classes. Help your teaching assistants stay organized by maintaining regular communication with them.
Visit the classroom. Get familiar with the physical space, the acoustics, etc.
Consider your technology needs and determine what technology is available in your classroom. In many large classrooms, it may not be practical to use a whiteboard or chalkboard because the writing is too difficult for students to see. Consider what you will use instead, such as PowerPoint. Teaching technology, such as clickers, can be used very effectively in large classes. For help with teaching technology, contact Learning Innovations.
Plan any first-day activities. Consider large-group icebreakers (Colorado State University). Have a back-up activity ready in case you need it.
Create teaching strategies that will be effective in a large class. Combinations of lecture and active learning can work well in large classes.
Practical Tips for the First Day: Setting Expectations
The first day you enter class, you begin to set the expectations for your students regarding how much participation-or passivity-you prefer. If you want students to participate, it’s important to set the expectations from day one. Otherwise, you may find that it is extremely difficult to change your expectations to more participation later.
These two resources offer excellent concrete suggestions for a good start on the first day:
- Mary Clement’s 10 Things to Make the First Day of Class Successful (and the Rest of the Semester)
- Dee L. Fink’s First Day of Class: What Can/Should We Do?
Being organized is essential to reducing stress for faculty members teaching large classes, and it also increases your credibility with students from the first day. Making sure you are organized for the first day(s) of class can help establish your credibility and trust with the students.