I have been pondering on a pedagogical question for a 2010 Winter Term class, and I was hoping to draw on the OAC's collective experience:
I have been very lucky and taught 3rd year / junior honours classes that have been small enough to split the class time into both lecturing and round-table seminar formats, where both I and students (as part of their assessment/assignments) bring specific questions / summaries for the class to discuss. I have found that these seminar sessions are a good way to ensure students have a reason for keeping up with weekly readings, a great way of engaging students and encouraging them with their essay/research projects, and also a good way of ensuring that students have a space for improving their understandings of key concepts/examples. As part of formal student feedback they have regularly praised the seminar format as being one of the highlights of their learning in the class - a format that is not often managed in two 1.5 hour per week classes.
This coming winter term I am teaching a 3rd year class that presently has 37 students and is rising; this high number makes the seminar format inappropriate. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how best to achieve the same positive learning impact that I describe above (learning process, mentoring, understanding outcomes)?
Thanks in advance for your time and thoughts.
it depends on the group and the room, but forming groups of 4-6 who discuss and elect a speaker for the second part of the discussion worked well in a bad room with a reluctant bunch of students last winter. You could also rotate the 'speakers' around to inform the other groups about the outcome of their discussion.
It sounds as if you have a wonderful approach to motivate students to read and discuss the material. Since the size of the class prohibits continuing with this approach, you might try doing enactments. Call groups of students down to the floor and have them represent segments of a society. Present them with the norms for their segments and have them demonstrate how conflicts arise when diverse norms and values clash. This takes some planning and you have to keep them focused, but it is amazing how much insight they gain about culturally-conditioned human interaction.
One method that I have used successfully is to have the students respond to online quizzes over the reading material before coming to class. To make this work well, you need to come up with provocative questions for the quizzes that will easily lead into class discussion. Questions that ask them to synthesize or apply the readings work best. Of course this method requires extra work on your part -- designing the questions and grading them (if you are grading them).