How to Engage Students and Support Learning in Large Classes

The following is the latest installment of the Toward Better Teaching advice column. You can pose a question for a future column here.


Dear Bonni,

You have shared often about active learning strategies and the impact they have on student learning. However, I am dubious that the approaches you describe work with large classes. What about when you have 50-60 students in a class? Or even hundreds?

—Anonymous


In my experience, it’s true that small classes provide greater opportunities for student engagement and for professor/mentor relationships to occur. However, there are certainly those who employ methods that put this perspective to the test.

When we teach large classes, what approaches can we employ that will have a greater opportunity to engage students and help students learn more?

As I’ve been thinking about this issue, I keep coming back to two key questions:

What can we discover about the relationship between class size and student learning?

When we teach large classes, what approaches can we employ that will have a greater opportunity to engage students and help students learn more?

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