Engaging Students In Large Enrollment Courses #fsi2014 (Notes)

These are my notes from the session “Engaging Students in Large Enrollment Courses with and without Technology” at FSI 2014, presented by Michel Bellini from UIUC.


  • Get students involved with on-stage demonstrations (Couldn’t just ask for volunteers, had to walk up the aisle to select students)
  • Use iPad to control slides and move around room
  • Hand iPad to students and have them annotate slides by answering questions

Team-Based Learning (Stephanie Ceman, College of Medicine)

  • Accreditation evaluation in 2009 was successful, but was asked to incorporate more active learning opportunities when they received results in 2010
  • Limited to 60% of material delivered by lecture
  • Given until fall 2011 to implement it
  • Selected Team Based Learning (TBL) as an active learning methodologies because successfully used at other Colleges of Medicine and didn’t need new resources
  • What is TBL?
    • Teacher-directed method of applying course content in small groups with one faculty member present
    • Lit shows can be successful with Student:Faculty of 200:1
    • Teams of 6 balanced for educational background, geography, and gender (established at the beginning of the course)
    • After 1-4 lectures and independent reading, a TBL module is administered
      • IRAT – Individual Readiness Assessment Test (individual readiness)
      • GRAT – Group Readiness Assessment Test (group interaction to determine group understanding)
      • Appeals process (for poor questions)
      • Applications phase – ungraded (big questions, complex scenarios)
      • Peer evaluation – assess group members, working on a way for instructors to assess the peer evaluation
    • Logistics:
      • Students grab a flag pole and folder every time they come in (trained on process)
      • Use a TA to run the microphone around (due to acoustics of lecture hall)
      • Orientation to TBL in an early course
      • Interspersed with lecture
    • IRAT
      • 8-10 short multiple choice questions, 15 minutes
      • Use clickers to respond individually
    • GRAT
      • Retake it as groups
      • Always do better as groups than they did individually
      • Use flag poles for group congregation points (set up before class starts, spaced apart)
      • Students turn around to talk about the questions
      • Use IF/AT forms for group assessment
    • Applications
      • More difficult questions with longer “stems”, may not have a correct answer
      • They chose to not grade them, but they could be
      • Open-book, 5-7 minutes to deliberate
      • Have a ‘not done’ and ‘done’ card on the flag poles, when majority done, all teams flip to their answer at the same time (colored letter cards)
      • Ask teams to explain their answer – students are very willing to talk at this point
      • Can be scary as a faculty member, because students ask tough questions and you aren’t in control
    • Peer Evaluation
      • Uses a paper form, constantly evaluating

Molecular Biology

  • Use cool technology or simple toys
  • Keep in mind students’ attention spans – no matter how great of a speaker you are, you probably can’t hold the attention of a room of several hundred students for an hour
  • You don’t have to accept that students will drift off – break up the time and include active learning, group activities, & demos
  • Learning Catalytics – alternative to common clicker tools
    • Works with any web-enabled device
    • Multiple question types, not just multiple choice
    • Ask students to explain their answer, right or wrong
  • Use toys and analogs for physical demonstrations
    • Place props on a document camera for large rooms
    • Use larger props (e.g. pool noodles)
  • Get volunteers for on-stage demos and give them prizes



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