Promoting Student Interaction in Large Lectures

When teaching a large lecture course, encouraging students to interact with the instructor and with each other raises the energy level in the room, helps students engage with lecture material, and provides more opportunities for informal assessments of student understanding.  With graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses, service learning, problem-based learning, collaborative (team-based) learning,  and simulations can be especially effective in encouraging students to think about solving problems in “real world” situations while still learning skills relevant to their field.

Getting Started

There are many effective activities that are easy to implement in a lecture and that promote student interaction with a faculty member and with other students.

Student interaction can be promoted by asking students to:

  • Work in pairs to identify major points (you may want to wander from group to group)
  • Work in pairs or groups to brainstorm answers to questions posed in lecture
  • Predict outcomes based on scenarios and evidence that you provide in a lecture
  • Apply what they have just learned to a set of hypothetical scenarios
  • Observe and interpret features of images or graphs
  • Construct quiz questions pertaining to the lecture

Faculty can engage students by:

  • Pausing during the lecture and posing open-ended questions to students
  • Polling students on issues and asking them to defend their positions
  • Polling students to assess comprehension of complex topics or problems
  • Posing a question at the beginning of a lecture and calling on students to answer the question at the end of class

Additional Resources

  • Engaging Large Classes: Strategies and Techniques for College Faculty, Stanley, C.A. & Porter, M. E. (Eds.) (2002). San Francisco, CA: Anker Publishing. Instructional strategies for teaching large classes of over 100 students who are in fixed seating. Tufts Faculty can contact CELT to loan book for up to 3 months
  • Eight Lecturing Basics (PPT, 10 slides) Good visuals to help reinforce the eight principles outlined by Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching (1993). Prepared by Derek Bruff from Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University.
  • Active Learning with Dr. Richard Felder 11 minute video
  • Successful Lecturing: Presenting Information in Ways That Engage Effective Processing (Access through Tufts libraries)