Active learning in large classes

Organizing idea

There is an overhwlming body of research indicating that students learn more if they are challenged to work on well-designed tasks during —class meeting times. Faculty are desciding to use the valuable face-to-face class time on tasks that require a community
  • Students wrestling with new concepts via group discussions
  • Scaffolding skills on complex problems

Good Practices

To prepare for these face-to-face meetings students watch pre-lecture video clips before class and complete exercises on core concepts. 

Some of the lessons learned during implementation are
  • It is necessary to forge consensus on the key learning outcomes of the course and ensure that face-to-face activities focus on these
  • It is necessary to assess for these outcomes so faculty can track improvements
  • —Active learning in large lectures requires undergraduate learning assistants to help student groups as they work on the in-class challenges.
  • The quality of the in-class material is important. Students are likely to get frustrated if they are asked to work on complex application exercises without having first explored the concepts.  A useful framework is the Karplus learning cycle.

Courses Involved

Course Title Typical enrollment
Bio 212 Principles of Biology II 1000
Chem 324 Intro to Quantum Mechanics 300
Phys 361 Classical Mechanics 50
Phys 362 Intermediate Mechanics 40