4 Responses

  1. Paul Ananth Tambyah at |

    I find large classes nearly impossible to teach, especially as the lectures are webcast which essentially means that the students come to class primarily to socialise with their friends.

    In most large classes in the school of medicine that I have sat in (for peer review or other reasons) or taught, there is a constant buzz of chatter from students who have torn themselves away from their facebook pages or instagram accounts.

    My approach is not a good one but I tend to find the most inconsiderate student, call him up (*yes, it is sadly most often a male student) and ask him a difficult question in public. That tends to silence those around him for a little while until they feel the need to go back to taking advantage of the opportunity for social banter and catching up that the comfortable lecture hall provides.

    Some of the ideas here on this page about using quizzes etc are very good but I think I am a bit too technologically challenged to do most of them.

    Students often ask my why we are the only medical school in town (i.e. not LKCSOM or Duke-NUS) which still does large lectures and I have to admit that I am not sure about the answer to that question. Maybe we do want them to socialise and meet up to build up camaraderie?? It is a pity that the poor lecturers have to be the backdrop to that!

    1. Zhi Xiong at |

      Hi Prof. Tambyah,

      I learned that rapport with students help a lot. However, the constraints are 1) time and 2) breaking into student-student rapport.

      1) University lecturers rarely get the luxury of time for the amount of interaction required to build teacher-student rapport for effective learning.

      2) The unique social structure of SOM students in the form of CGs and Houses mean that their social connectedness with one another is probably stronger than most schools/faculties. This is not a bad thing and we probably do not want to reduce or break it up. However, it would be challenging for teachers to break into this ‘circle of trust’ to build rapport for more effective classroom management.

      I have attached some links on this topic for your reading interest.




      If possible, I would love to chat more with you or anyone else to exchange views on this topic as well as learn from one another on other instruments/strategies of classroom engagement.

      Please feel free to contact me at zhixiong_chen@nus.edu.sg

      Warmest wishes,

    2. Kiruthika Ragupathi at |

      Establishing the culture of random calling on students (as you proposed) can be a useful strategy for broadening student engagement and participation if used thoughtfully. If it seen as a penalty, then it is likely to more harm than good (Tanner, 2013). It could also be helpful if you can establish classroom community norms at the beginning of the semester, in which you discuss your expectations, policies on classroom disruptions. Alternatively, you can spend the first class getting students to collaboratively develop these ground rules.

      You rightly pointed out that lectures are social events, but that social buzz can be channeled to build a shared communal understanding (French and Kennedy, 2016). They also go on to emphasise that there is a place and value for large lecture classes. We can use it to (1) provide context and structure for a subject, (2) offer a sustained argument and narrative, (3) enthuse and inspire students through our liveness and presence, (4) develop students’ note-taking and listening skills through intentionally planned activities, (5) present up-to-date research and model behaviour.

      I have listed two great articles that may be of interest:
      Tanner, K. D. (2013). Structure matters: twenty-one strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity. CBE – Life Sciences Education, 12(3), 322-331. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3762997/
      French, S. & Kennedy, G. (2016). Reassessing the value of university lectures, Teaching in Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2016.1273213

  2. EeCheng Ong at |

    I totally agree with you that students chatting in a classroom (any classroom, really) can be a challenge. Here are a few ideas:

    1. As long as students are chatting, I don’t speak. Sooner or later, students will catch on to the fact that they’ll have to keep quiet if they want class to continue (and if they want to get out of class on time). Some of my colleagues do this as well, and it’s pretty effective.

    2. Provide time and space for students to talk. Every 15-20 minutes or so, students will work on a reflection/discussion question or a mathematical/graphical problem. There’s some quiet time for them to work on the problem or jot down their thoughts, but they also have a couple of minutes towards the end to discuss their answers with their friends.

    3. The lecture slides that I provide to students are not “complete.” I leave some key words/phrases as blanks, and students have to fill in these blanks as the lecture progresses. This way, students have to pay attention, and are therefore less likely to be chatting with each other.

    4. Sometimes students are chatting and not paying attention because they think they can learn the material on their own. In this case, maybe the class could be reorganized or flipped. This is a more drastic and costly change, but it can be worthwhile in the long run. The idea is to extract as much value as possible from the time spent in lecture.

    Here’s the idea: Students do the readings before class. They take a quiz, so they can see what they’re getting wrong. In class, the professor explains the concepts that students are not getting, then students work on more problems.

    I’m sure CIT can provide help if you want to implement to implement quizzes and have students submit their answers. Sometimes I use Poll Everywhere, but usually I just do the old-fashioned “raise your hands if you think the answer is A.”

    Here’s a video showing what Eric Mazur does in a Physics lecture.


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