Teaching Effectively in Very Large Classrooms

There is a huge difference in teaching 30 students, as opposed to 140 students. Large classrooms can be noisy, crowded, and full of distractions. The students can be disrespectful and out of control, with pockets of students texting, carrying on private conversations, and coming and going at will. Sound familiar? Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Teaching Effectively in Very Large Classrooms

Learning strategies that work well in small groups are often inappropriate for such large audiences. What strategies, then, can the nurse educator use to facilitate a positive learning environment in large classrooms?

First and foremost, the nurse educator must establish order in the classroom. This is critical because, without order, learning is hindered for all student participants, especially those who want to learn. The syllabus needs to include strict behavioral guidelines ("class etiquette rules"), as well as clearly defined consequences for not adhering to the behavioral guidelines. My university has just enacted the "Disruptive Student Policy," which backs up consequential wording in the syllabus and allows educators to excuse disruptive students from the classroom. If the student persists in disruptive behavior, then the student may be expelled from the course entirely.

With millennial students, especially, etiquette rules need to be clearly spelled out. It seems obvious to those of my generation (Baby Boomers) that cell phones should be turned off in class and that the instructor, as well as the learning environment in the classroom, should be respected. However, younger students need to be told these things. And the nurse educator must be prepared to cultivate an atmosphere of respect in the classroom by reinforcing these rules over and over again.

Suggested rules for class etiquette:

  • Cell phones turned off, no texting in class.
  • Students must be seated 5 minutes before designated class time. Afterward, the door will be shut and locked. Tardy students will not be allowed entry into the classroom until the next break period.
  • No whispering or talking in class, unless called upon by the instructor.
  • Laptops are to be used only for taking notes. No "surfing" the Internet allowed during class.

For large audiences, the lecture is the teaching modality most frequently utilized. The discussion has to be limited, or the large class may quickly get out of control, like wildfire. Case studies, which are effective learning tools in small groups, are often not practical in large groups of students, as classroom time is limited. It is helpful to tack on a short quiz at the end of the lecture or sprinkle multiple choice questions throughout. Unannounced quizzes are invaluable for encouraging class attendance, undivided attention, and preparation.

An online Blackboard component is a must for large classes. Most textbook publishers furnish course keys which can be directly imported into Blackboard. The course key will equip the site with quizzes, video clips, helpful Internet links, and many other resources. Practice quizzes with instant feedback are great learning enhancements for the motivated student. PowerPoint class lectures can be posted for student review. Also, if your college offers this service, Mediasite video recordings can be made of each lecture and posted to the Blackboard site.

Large classrooms pose unique challenges for the nurse educator, but with adequate planning and consistent effort, an effective learning environment can be created.

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Specializes in Cath Lab, OR, CPHN/SN, ER.

I think another large issue with classroom rules is food. I recall in nursing school bringing food to class because of time restraints (especially during the summer when we were there a large part of the day with only 30 minutes for lunch). There came a time when drinks were allowed, but food was not, which was understandable (we'd just come in with the biggest Bojangles tea or Sonic slushie you could imagine).

Specializes in Paediatrics.

In my experience of teaching large groups, I found that the students dreaded lectures. Hence, I opted to integrate case presentation, seminars and some problem based learning. A lot of work is involved in preparation as there would be a lot of questions. The students can be graded for their effort. However, not all subjects can be given as presentation especially Anatomy and Physiology. It is a good idea to lock the doors on time too and set the ground rules. This would enhance discipline.:yeah:

Specializes in Education and oncology.

Any suggestions on how to enforce the "no texting, no web surfing"? I don't have a large class, just 35, but somehow can't seem to prevent the electronic communication from going on. The constant electronic distractions are a challange to compete with!

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds.
Any suggestions on how to enforce the "no texting, no web surfing"? I don't have a large class, just 35, but somehow can't seem to prevent the electronic communication from going on. The constant electronic distractions are a challange to compete with!

A colleague has placed the following in her syllabus for her graduate-level class (but could easily be applied to undergraduate situations):

Laptops, Blackberries, Etc.

Out of respect for the classroom enterprise, laptops and similar device use during class should be limited to note-taking and very limited other appropriate activities. This course in particular requires students to be engaged with others and the professor during class, as we will be involved in moral reasoning exercises together. Hence, inappropriate use of electronic devices will be considered negatively in a student’s class participation grade.

This has proven to be a very effective intervention for her class.

I have finally resorted to getting an extra set of eyes for my very large class (enlisting the help of another faculty member to stand in the back of the lecture hall where most of the disruptions go on). If students persist in whispering or other forms of disruptions, they will now be booted from the class without any further warnings. They will also be written up according to our university's "Disruptive Student Policy."

Specializes in Trauma,ER,CCU/OHU/Nsg Ed/Nsg Research.

Great tips, VickyRN!