Photo by Alana Whelan

Joanne Goodell engages with members attending the workshop.

Feb. 4, 2019

Workshop offers tips for big classes

It can be difficult for professors to engage with individual students when they are teaching classes with more than 25 students, said Joanne Goodell, Ph.D., professor of mathematics education and director for the Center of Faculty Excellence at Cleveland State University.

On Thursday, Jan. 24, four professors, including Goodell, got together for a casual meeting to discuss some tactics that will help them to teach those classes in ways that will be more beneficial to students.

To begin the presentation, Goodell played a clip of Ben Stein as the economics teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as an example of an ineffective teaching technique.

Goodell also stressed the importance of taking attendance and how that alone can make students feel like they are actually being noticed in the class.

“Taking attendance does more than just give you a record of who was there,” said Goodell. “It lets the student know that you are noticing that they are there -- that you care that they are there.”

Goodell said that the more professors are able to make connections with students, the better the experience is going to be for both the student and the professor.

It can also be hard for students, especially first-years, she noted, to stay engaged and keep coming back to class if they don’t feel like they are building a relationship with their professors and peers within classes.

“Almost 600 of the students out of 2,000 won’t come back because of lots of different reasons, but one of them is, they don’t feel like they belong here – they don’t feel comfortable,” Goodell said.

One of the most crucial steps that Goodell said would help faculty engage with students more directly is for the faculty to make an effort to learn students’ names, even though it can be difficult in large class settings.

“The biggest challenge for me is learning all the student’s names,” said Dorothy Hamilton, professor of nursing at Cleveland State and president of the Greater Cleveland Nurses Association. “I have two groups right now -- one is 88 and the other is 50 students, but when I’m in clinicals I only have eight students, so it’s much easier for me to remember their names. When you have that many students, it’s difficult -- and they value [when you know their names].”

Another convenient way for students and professors to communicate with one another is by submitting assignments and conversing online, but both Hamilton and Goodell agree that it is important to do it in an organized way, so they use Blackboard.

“If you’ve got a really large class, something you can do is ask the students to introduce themselves on Blackboard rather than take the time during class to do it,” said Goodell. “My email is just not manageable these days, so I have all assignments submitted through Blackboard even in a face-to-face class.”

Teaching methods vary from person to person, but as Goodell said, there are a variety of tactics that everyone can put in place to make classes more stimulating regardless of what subject or how many students they are teaching.

“One way to make it relevant, or to make it more interesting, is to vary the presentation mode. So that’s why I started with the video [today]. So switching it up is a great way of keeping students a bit more engaged.”


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