Active teaching and learning in large college and university classes (summary)

(from C. Mulryan Teaching large classes at college and university level: challenges and opportunities. Teaching in Higher Education. Vol. 15, No. 2 April 2010, 175-185).


The need for active learning by students in tertiary education settings and the placing of students at the centre of the learning process in this context has been emphasised by many.

Decades of research on teaching and learning have highlighted the importance of active teaching and learning at all levels of education. The challenge is to find ways to do this within the context of large college classes.

Active learning does not have to mean the demise of the lecture (Machemer and Crawford 2007). It does mean that opportunities for students to engage in reflection, analysis, synthesis and communication in the context of their learning need to be included in all teaching approaches, including the lecture (Fink 2003).


Specific recommendations and suggestions trying to make teaching and learning more active in large college classes

  • Brainstorming;
  • short writing activities followed by class discussion;
  • quick surveys;
  • think pair chare;
  • formative quizzes
  • debate;
  • role-playing;
  • student presentations;
  • the insertion of brief demonstrations during a lecture;
  • the feedback lecture, which consists of two mini-lectures separated by a small-group study session built around a study guide;
  • the guided lecture in which students listen to a 20—30-minute presentation without taking notes, followed by their writing for 5 minutes what they remember and spending the remainder of the class period in small groups clarifying and elaborating on the material;
  • ask students to pause for 2 minutes three times during the lecture to consolidate their notes (students learned significantly more);


Innovative ways of achieving quality closure to a teaching session have been suggested, including:

  • asking students to write down a brief statement of the main point of the lecture
  • to provide questions or test problems related to class content
  • To make suggestions for course improvement. This feedback form can be used as a formative assessment of course effectiveness and as a basis for future course planning. It may also focus students’ attention on course content and as an accountability measure.
  • Cooperative learning is regarded as an essential element of active teaching, and small-group cooperative work during teaching sessions has been recommended in the context of large-class teaching at the college level.
  • Small-group work can contribute to effective teaching and learning by promoting cognitive elaboration, enhancing critical thinking, providing feedback, promoting social and emotional development, appreciating diversity and reducing student attrition.
  • Advancements in the use of technology to enhance the teaching of large groups at the tertiary level have also taken place in recent years, with opportunities for online availability of course materials, discussion opportunities, feedback to students and assessment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest  posts

Studying with ebooks

From the Website of University of Reading, november 2023. Reading an e-book allows you to use features that print versions do not have. For instance, you can search the text...

Read More

What is Metaverse?

Text obtained through Bing Copilot (November 2023) The metaverse is a virtual world that combines multiple different virtual spaces. It is a future iteration of the internet that will allow...

Read More

Students as Partners

 Students as Partners—Good for Students, Good for Staff: A Study on the Impact of Partnership Working and How This Translates to Improved Student-Staff EngagementIn the article of Roisin Curran the...

Read More