- Campus Life
- Cost & Aid
- News & Events
- About Plattsburgh
Produced by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Student Committee on Teaching Excellence (SCTE), with input from the students of SUNY Plattsburgh. Vol. 3, issue 2. Read other issues
What kinds of issues do you face with taking large classes, and what teaching techniques do you find most effective in those classes?
While it would be nice always to have classes that have fewer than 30 students, large classes (40+ students) will always be a feature of a public institution – made even more commonplace by the current economic climate. The challenges we face in teaching in teaching large classes are directly translated to the students’ learning experiences: they feel unidentified, adrift, less empowered to engage, and compromised by our reduced ability to deliver feedback in a timely way. Students say that in large classes it is easy to lose focus, to daydream or check out – and that other students can become a distraction with their talking and texting. Interestingly, students also report a sense of instructors in large classes “dumbing down” the material and not offering the same kind of intellectual challenge. Overall, it is so much more likely for the classroom dynamic that we all value to be muted in a large class. Here are some suggestions for improving the learning environment in a large class:
“I find that there are fewer connections made between teachers and students. Also, I feel like I cannot be pushed to the best of my ability.” Olivia Oxley
“Teachers in large classes don’t take the time to get to know each of their students. It makes it harder for students to get help when they need it because it is more difficult to talk to a stranger.” Carly Gagne
“I find that good teaching is usually marked by enthusiasm about the subject no matter the class size.” Matt Hewson
“I think that it is harder to learn in large classes. I really like when a teacher thinks of interesting ways to teach, rather than just sitting up front reading off the material.” Melissa Childs
What gets rave reviews:
Richard Schaefer, Ph.D. assistant professor, History. Richard provides us with a good model for teaching large classes because, as the comments indicate below, he creates a tempo that carries the class along the learning path. His students tell us that he tries to engage them in creative ways, and that his passion for his subject is the driving force behind those efforts. Richard’s comments about his approach to teaching reveal a disposition towards students that respects who they are not just as thinkers, but as people in a world of context. He says, “Teaching is … less about instruction than about cultivating a sense for what we don't know. There is nothing I enjoy more than walking into class and having students challenge me by raising tough questions about what I am teaching. That is the real fun in teaching, continuing to look at the world through students' eyes."
Excerpts from nominating submissions:
Richard will receive his CTE Teacher of the Month mug just as soon as the weather is nice enough for me to walk it over to Champlain Valley Hall.
For more information about the Center for Teaching Excellence, please contact:
Becky Kasper, Ph.D., Director
301 Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-3043
Fax: (518) 564-5100