Faculty-led Inquiry into Reflective and Scholarly Teaching (FIRST)


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Course portfolio developed as part of the UNL Peer Review of Teaching Project (peerreview.unl.edu)

Copyright (c) 2015 Katherine Nashleanas


Large lecture classes of 100 students or more present unique challenges to both teaching and learning. The common method of “delivery” by instructors is lecture, often augmented by a set of Power Point slides; and, while the research literature shows that this is the more traditional way of teaching, increasingly it is becoming apparent that this method of instruction often does not reach students in the way we hope and often assume (Harvard Magazine 2015). Most of the students populating these classes are born of the Digital Age and have different expectations for learning, requiring new approaches in the classroom (Tapscott 2009, Bauerlein 2008, Wilson and Gerber 2008, Jonas-Dwyer and Pospisil. 2004). Faculty are exhorted to incorporate more critical thinking in their classes no matter the size (Wilsman 2014, Exeter et al. 2010), while more courses are being converted to large lecture venues that are usually not conducive to student interaction, or even to regular attendance. The large, impersonal auditoriums seem to be a confounding factor to the very quality of learning we seek to encourage; that is, anonymous auditoriums are not conducive to interactive engagement in our classrooms even as instructors are encouraged construct more student-centered classes. In previous portfolio projects I focused on various ways I could improve student grades while incorporating active learning and critical thinking. These were performance-driven and tested students' objective knowledge. For the current portfolio, my intention is to investigate ways to encourage my students to be more active learners… that is, to be more actively engaged with the material and with each other. Put in other terms, I am focusing on making my class more experiential - to immerse students in the world they are studying as much as possible. But is it possible to get students, many of whom have never traveled outside the state, or outside the US, to experience the world while sitting in a large and anonymous lecture hall? The results of the current study suggest that it is indeed possible to help students develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, and intrigue with course material in a class size of over 100 students in an entry-level general education course, and improve their interaction with each other and the world. This portfolio will explain the steps I used to achieve this outcome.