Best Practices for Supporting Students in Carleton’s Larger Classes

Many of the teaching techniques demonstrated to support a diverse community of learners in small classes (e.g., connecting with students personally, seeing students as individuals) can be difficult to adapt in larger settings. What are some tips from faculty who teach larger groups (>30 students) on a regular basis and some general information about distribution of class sizes at Carleton?

Anna Rafferty, Associate Professor of Computer Science

Ken Abrams, Professor of Psychology
Cindy Blaha, Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Dan Hernández, Professor of Biology
Jeff Ondich, Professor of Computer Science
Matt Whited, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Each panelist addressed the following questions:

  1. Briefly describe which courses in your department typically enroll more than 30 students and how you structure the course (i.e. one instructor, multiple instructors, labs with or without additional instructors, etc.). Please talk about general trends and highlight a few courses to illustrate your department’s philosophy about course size rather than discussing each course!
  2. How do you support a range of student backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities in the subject without unreasonable faculty demands in the larger classes? What is the role of staff and/or student workers?  What strategies have you found particularly effective for ensuring students who are struggling have support and do not fall through the cracks?
  3. Are there benefits that you see for students in these larger classes?