By Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz
lthough professors cite large class size as the
reason for lecturing, rather than attempting active learning
methods, they still tend to lecture even when they have a small
class. Although some of these methods may not be appropriate
for courses required as prerequisites because they require giving
up some control over the content coverage, the teacher still
retains responsibility for assessment and quality control. Here
are a number of alternative teaching styles that work well with
Modified Oxford-style tutoring. Divide
the class into pairs, set the syllabus and course schedule, and
a weekly basis with each pair. Have one student present the material
while the other comments and criticizes. Your role is to dig
deeper and control future directions through the reading assignments.
With 10-12 students, the time commitment is about the same as
for a lecture class, but students receive more personal attention
and probably work harder than in lecture classes.
guided design, and Problem Based Learning (PBL). These related
techniques focus on "real world" problems.
Case studies present a problem and the solution developed by
a practitioner. Capstone design courses use them so students
can apply the material they have learned in other courses. The
emphasis is on teamwork, solving open-ended problems, and communication.
Guided design leads students through the solution of a case study.
After each step, written feedback determines what the students
do next. The written feedback in small classes can be replaced
or supplemented with personalized oral feedback. In the first
case study, guided design helps students learn how to solve open-ended
problems as a team. PBL also focuses on realistic problems, but
differs since the students are expected to learn the material
while solving the problem. The groups develop a list of topics
they must learn in order to find the solution. Since they can
see the reason for learning the material, students are usually
highly motivated to learn.
Super PBL. In super PBL, the most
time-consuming step, problem definition, is delegated to the
students with appropriate limits—and
advice. In our version, each student group writes a professional
quality textbook chapter including examples, homework, and homework
solutions on a topic they select from a long list of advanced
topics not normally included in core courses. There are no tests
and very few lectures. Most class periods are dedicated to meetings
with individual groups to check on progress. A major role for
the professor involves motivating and encouraging students.
seminars. In the teacher-controlled version, you select the content
and control the evaluation procedure. Although
all students read and discuss the assigned paper, one student—the
discussion leader—has the responsibility of carefully checking
the paper for errors and reading the references to put the paper
in context. Homework and tests can be assigned just like in a
standard class. In the student-controlled version, the students
pick topics, resources, and teaching methods while the teacher
negotiates assessment methods, (for example, a test with student-constructed
problems) and performs quality control. Meet with the students
before they teach each topic to go over their material and afterwards
to provide feedback.
If you have been avoiding active learning
methods but occasionally teach small classes, your bluff has
been called. Turn these courses
into active learning experiences.