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Estelle and Melvin Gelman LibraryEckles Library at the Mount Vernon CampusVirginia Science and Technology Campus Library

Large Class Techniques

Large Class Engagement


Teaching Large Undergraduate Classes

The following guides are designed to provide teaching strategies to enhance student learning in large-attendance classes. If you have questions about teaching large classes, or would like to meet with a staff member at the Teaching & Learning Collaborative, please call the TLC at 202-994-4026 or email tlc@gwu.edu for more information.

Peer Instruction

Engaging students in large classes presents a challenge to any instructor. How do we know that students are learning concepts deeply and not simply regurgitation facts on an exam? Dr. Eric Mazur has successfully pioneered a technique known as peer-instruction, which can be used with and without technology (e.g., clickers). Learning environments that are dialogically rich—embodying teacher–student and/or student–student dialogue—are known to develop critical thinking and deep conceptual understanding in students (e.g. Reiter, 1994; Anderson et al., 1996, 2001; deCorte, 1996; Matthews, 1996).It is important to note the shift from the traditional “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” needed to peer instruction to be successful.


Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (Chickering and Gamson)

What can faculty do to address these and various other issues that plague the “traditional” large lecture course? We can begin with the Seven Principles For Good Practice In Undergraduate Education (Chickering and Gamson) in order to improve undergraduate lecture courses. These important principles urge faculty to:

  • encourage contact between students and faculty,
  • develop reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  • encourage active learning,
  • give prompt feedback,
  • emphasize time on task,
  • communicate high expectations, and
  • respect diverse talents and ways of learning.