Center for Teaching and Learning

Leading Large Classes

Large classes (100+ students) should not be limited exclusively to lecture-based teaching. Many instructors in small classes have successful strategies for encouraging active participation, but it can be difficult to translate these strategies to a large class format. In a large class, however, participation can be designed to get students actively solving problems, interacting with one another and the instructor, and processing course material.

What do you do to prepare for a large class?

“1) I rehearse at home, 2) I use YouTube to demonstrate examples, 3) I use photographs, 4) pre-rehearsed “surprise” scenes that appear from nowhere, 5) pre-rehearsed readings from foundational texts, 6) divide the lecture into three acts: foundational knowledge, examples and illustrations, critical leaps, 7) always leave them on a high note. I tend to abruptly end lecture two minutes before the bell rings — better to end on a laugh!”

Samer Al-Saber, PhD candidate, Drama

Additional Resources

CIDR Teaching and Learning Bulletins

A collection of short papers on pertinent teaching and learning topics with practical suggestions and resources.  Search for a topic of interest HERE.

UW Resources

External links


  • Bligh, D. H. (2000). What’s the use of lectures? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Bridges, G. S., & Desmond, S. (Eds.). (2000). Teaching and learning in large classes. New York, NY: American Sociological Association.
  • Freeman, S., O’Connor, E., Parks, J., Cunningham, M., Hurley, D., Haak, D., Dirks, C., & Wenderoth, MP. (2007). Prescribed active learning increases performance in introductory Biology. CBE Life Sciences Education 6.
  • Hepner, F. (2007). Teaching the Large College Class San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Lehman, J., Richardson, J., Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2009). Impact of Asynchronous online discussions: A study of implementation in two large-enrollment blended courses. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
  • MacGregor, J., Cooper, J. L., Smith, K. A., & Robinson, P. (Eds.). (2000). Strategies for energizing large classes: From small groups to learning communities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 81.
  • Stanley, C. A., & Porter, M. E. (2002). Engaging large classes: Strategies and techniques for college faculty. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Walker, J., Cotner, S., Baepler, P., & Decker, M. (2008). A delicate balance: Integrating Active Learning into a Large Lecture Course. CBE Life Science Education, 7(4).