10-1/2 Strategies For Engaging Students In Large Classes

Whether you are relatively new to teaching large (lecture-hall style) classes, or you have spent years educating large classes, join Barbara Nixon, Michael Reksulak, and others from the Georgia Southern Unviersity Faculty Learning Community on Teaching Large Classes to learn and share your strategies for being both the sage on the stage AND the guide on the side.

For more tips and strategies, see http://delicious.com/barbaranixon/TeachingLargeClasses

NOTE: Speaker’s notes will be included in this presentation sometime after the April 8 presentation.


A Vision of Students Today

As it says on the YouTube page for Michael Wesch’s video “A Vision of Students Today”:

[This is] a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

How similar are these students to your students?

Wesch wrote a post last fall as a way of Revisiting A Vision of Students Today. It’s definitely worth a read.

Attendance in Large Classes AKA “Bueller? Bueller?”

Pop Rocker by KayVee.INC.This spring, I am teaching a large (80-person) section of Introduction to Public Relations. For those faculty members who teach big sections of classes, what are some of the techniques you use for taking attendance? Encouraging participation so that students will know they are missed when they aren’t there? Other ideas?

Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

Getting to Know You

[Cross-Posted from my blog Public Relations Matters]

In one of my public relations classes, I asked my students to create their own magazine covers about themselves so that we could get to know each other better. And I thought it was only fair that I shared my own magazine cover, created using Big Huge Labs.

All About Barbara - Magazine Cover by you.

The photo was taken in front of the Love sculpture in Scottsdale, AZ, in January 2007. We were in Scottsdale for the PF Chang Rock & Roll Half-Marathon, which we both walked in less than four hours (faster than some of the runners!).

I took the photo of my husband and me at arm’s length; I especially liked how my pink International Listening Association jacket shows up in the reflections in our sunglasses. Since that weekend, I’ve made it a habit of always snapping pictures of us together like that so that we can better remember our travels together.

In Large Classes, It Drives Me Nuts When . . .

Lecture Sleeping Pt. 1 by Seb Payne.This semester, I’ll be teaching a large section of Introduction to Public Relations at Georgia Southern University. I’d love to get some feedback, especially from students, on what professors have done to HINDER your learning in a large class. The more I know from the student point of view, the better I can prepare for this class. 

So . . . what have professors (or teaching assistants) done that really drives you nuts in large classes?



Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27069004@N00/2176489046/

A Mnemonic Wrap-up to the Semester

bendable-racecar-driversAt the end of each semester, I usually have my students do some sort of in-class activity where they tell me what they got out of the class.

This semester, this is what I plan to do.

  1. Allow each student to come to the front of the room and choose one manipulative (toy) from the basket, along with one sheet of 8-1/2×11 paper. (I purchased inexpensive manipulatives from Oriental Trading Company.)
  2. After students return to their seats, I ask them to name their toys. If they choose a short first name (three letters or fewer), they must also give their toy a last name.
  3. Students then write the name of their toys vertically down the long edge of the paper.
  4. Have students write one thing they learned for each letter in the name of their toy. For example, if you’re in a Public Speaking class and your toy is named Beetlejuice, the B could stand for “Be yourself.” Allow them no more than five minutes for this part of the activity.
  5. Break students into small groups of five or fewer to shair their memories with each other. (They can also help each other out if not everyone was able to come up with something for each letter in the name.)
  6. [OPTIONAL, depending on amount of time you have] Back in the large group, ask students to share their toys’ names and what they’ve come up with for each letter of their toys.
  7. Ask students to provide their toys’ names (etc.) as as comments to a blog post you’ve created for them, so that you can save the information for your own future use. Have this count as part of their class participation for the semester.


  • Instead of giving students toys, have them use their own first names (or first and middle, if the names are short). Or have them use the name of their favorite actor or musician.
  • Let students borrow the toys, and collect them at the end of the class, rather than allowing them to keep the toys.
  • If you have a document projector, students could come to front of room and display their handwritten thoughts and the toy by using the projector.

Photo Credit: http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse/processRequest.do?demandPrefix=12&sku=39/1878&mode=Searching&erec=13&D=bendable&Ntt=bendable&Ntk=all&Dx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&Ntx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&N=0&requestURI=processProductsCatalog&sd=Bendable+Race+Car+Drivers

“OMG! You Got My Grade Wrong!”

It’s about the time in the semester when students may start becoming concerned about their grades. There hasn’t been a day gone by lately that a student hasn’t popped in during my office hours to ask about grades.

How should a student approach you if he or she thinks you’ve recorded a grade incorrectly? Let’s come up with a list of do’s and don’ts. I’ll get us started:

DO: Visit me in my office. Show me your graded assignment that’s been handed back to you. Say something like, “It looks like the grade that’s on this assignment isn’t the same as the one that’s recorded in WebCT Vista. Could you check on that for me, please?”

DON’T: Write me a Facebook message saying, “OMG, Prof. Nixon! U screwed up 1 of my grades!”

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcfox/271891873/