V03: worksheets in a large class

The same worksheet-based group activity twice in the same lesson? Yes – sometimes this can be very effective.

Worksheet based activities are becoming more common for engaging the minds of all students in large classes, while making thinking visible to students and instructors. This 6 minute video demonstrates one such worksheet being used to both INITIATE a 2 hour module and RESOLVE that lesson in a first year science elective course on natural disasters taught in large lecture theater. Reasons for doing this are discussed, the strategy is illustrated in action, and benefits to students as well as instructors and teaching assistants are shown.

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WHEN WATCHING THIS 6 min. VIDEO, look for…

Student engagement and benefits

  1. Regular use ensures all students know what to expect and how to engage in this style of learning.
  2. Individuals and groups begin work without needing much instruction because this is a “normal” aspect of the course.
  3. Ad hoc groups of 2-4 students work fine in this setting so long as they can communicate with each other in this lecture theater setting.
  4. Time is allocated for individuals to think before they engage with each other to benefit from peer instruction and “distributed reasoning”.
  5. Using prepared worksheets helps keep activities structured and efficient. Only half of this one was collected.
  6. Students keep the second half (with identical questions as the first) for their own purposes.

instructor and ta actions that facilitate learning:

  1. Co-teachers and/or teaching assistants help keep the expert / novice ratio at roughly 1 / 50. However, 1 /100 can work fine too.
  2. Experts are circulating and observing the thinking of as many groups as possible. Efficient tutoring depends on seeing/hearing thinking so that difficulties can be detected and feedback provided where and when needed.
  3. As many groups as possible are offered support. The instructor and TA do not get stuck with any one set of students.
  4. When offering support to individual groups or the whole class, student thinking is guided. Instructors do not just tell students answers, they Socratically draw out thinking of students.
  5. Student questions or comments are repeated for all to hear.
  6. Lecturing (i.e. “telling”) is strategic. Starting with the worksheet means the subject and new ideas are presented and discussed AFTER students have wrestled with concepts. This represents “priming” students for learning.
  7. There is repetition in this class. But such repetition helps students consolidate concepts and identify priorities.


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