Video 04: Tutoring Large Classes

How can we scale up tutoring strategies to support learning in large classes? This 6-minute video clip illustrates instructional strategies that effectively enable “tutoring” for 150 students or more during a 40-minute worksheet-based group activity. The course is an elective about climate science for 3rd or 4th year science majors, and it is run in a large lecture theater.

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WHEN WATCHING THIS 6:15 min. VIDEO, look for…

Students: how they WORK

  1. All students know what to expect and how to make use of this opportunity to practice new skills and apply new knowledge under the guidance of experts.
  2. Groups get to work without even waiting for instructions because this is a “normal” aspect of the course.
  3. Everyone knows it is worth stopping to listen when there is input being offered to the whole class.
  4. Ad hoc groups work fine in this setting (groups of 4 are ideal) so long as they can communicate with each other in this lecture theater setting.
  5. All students have “clickers” and know they are expected to use them every day, both during lectures and as part of the worksheet based activities.
  6. Building “team working” skills is not a major objective in the course. The use of groups simply enables the benefits of peer-assisted feedback and distributed reasoning.

Aspects of TUTORING PRACTICE to notice include:

  1. Co-teachers and/or teaching assistants help keep the expert / novice ration at roughly 1 / 50.
  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.
  4. Commonly seen difficulties are addressed by interrupting student work. The chalk or white board, or document camera, and a microphone make this possible.
  5. When offering support to groups or the whole class, student thinking is guided. These instructors do not just tell an individual, a group or the whole class.
  6. Lecturing (i.e. “telling”) is strategic. It serves to amplify or elaborate or provide expert perspectives on aspects that students have already started thinking about. There is rarely any simple delivery of new facts and figures. An element of story-telling is also included during lectures.


  1. Worksheets provide the structure to thinking which should be new for students.
  2. Avoid large quantities solo work.
  3. The instructor refers to “pre-readings”. Students have encountered basic new content before coming to class. Therefore, the instructor can spend time in class contributing expertise that helps students think rather than simply delivering facts and figures.
  4. Listen to discussions of worksheet tasks (before during or after the exercise) to hear that content is up-to-date and relevant. This helps support student motivation.
  5. Worksheet “results” should involve making decisions, drawing conclusions or comparisons, or similar “products” that benefit from discussion or debate. Sketches and graphing are useful.

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