Panel: How To Do Active Learning In Large Lectures

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Do you anticipate teaching a large enrollment course (100 people or more) in your current role or future career? Join our panel on active learning to hear tips, tricks, and strategies from experienced instructors.


Do you anticipate teaching a large enrollment course (100 people or more) in your current role or future career? Come to this panel discussion to get real-life tips on how to promote active learning in large enrollment courses , even in stadium-style seating.

By “active learning” (here) we mean any instructional method that engages learners in the learning process. This might look like student-student discussions, problem-solving, case studies, reflections, poll questions, online annotations or chat, active note-taking, summarizing, journaling, and more. There are constructive (producing outputs, which might be individual), interactive, and physically active forms of learning. We know that active learning can provide feedback, reinforce skills and concepts, foster community, create personal connections to the materials, and more. But how? Many folks have not seen it done well, or aren’t sure how to actually use these strategies in large enrollment settings.

In addition to addressing some of the questions and topics below, we’ll also make time for participant Q&A:

Questions about how to run active learning in a large enrollment course: 

  • What are your two favorite active learning approaches to have students do (1) independently, although perhaps sharing out with the whole group, (2) in partners or small groups?
  • What kinds of technology do you use (if any; e.g. polls, sharing out on Google docs or Padlets/whiteboard systems, etc.) and how do you ensure students have access to it?
  • What is a tip you learned the hard way? Or What do you think is the most important tip to know?

Questions about overcoming the barriers that might make instructors hesitate to build active learning in to their lectures:

  • How do you get student buy-in?
  • Have you had any challenges with colleagues or leadership around your teaching methods?
  • What do you think is the best way to learn how to do this well to prepare to be able to do this (besides doing it)?
  • What do you do in stadium seating, when it’s hard for students to move around- or gets loud?

About Our Panelists

Michelle Schwarze is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UW-Madison. Her larger enrollment courses range from 150 to 200 students, and she often uses activities such as think-pair-share, best summaries, and fill-in handouts to engage students and monitor learning during lecture time. 

Zac Freedman is an Assistant Professor of Soil Science at UW–Madison

Tim Paustian is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at UW–Madison focused on microbiology education. His larger enrollment course (Microbiology 303) ranges from 200 to 300 students, and he often uses activities such as clicker questions, think-pair-share, one minute paper, and concept maps to engage students and monitor learning during lecture time.

June 30th, 2022 9:30 AM through 10:30 AM
Online (link will be provided to registrants)
United States