Large Classroom Management: Random Thoughts

by Tim Ballard, Department of Biology and Marine Biology
  • Remember that you are in charge, always. This isn’t a democracy.
  • Use e-mail. I do e-mail 3 times a day. Promote the students asking you run-of-the-mill stuff in this format. It keeps them out of your office for small things.
  • Utilize your bulletin board. I post the course outline and draw lines under where we are in the class each day. I post test breakdowns, class messages, lab info, etc. Students check it all the time.
  • Anonymity is easy in large classes. It promotes student chit-chat while you’re lecturing. Call the offenders out in class. Remind them that others actually came to class to hear what you have to say.
  • Since anonymity is easy, make every effort to learn the names of your students and use those names every time you talk with them. If they ask you a question, start your answer by asking their name.
  • Utilize Pipeline and keep their grades right beside their picture. If they e-mail, look up their face.
  • On every test, write each student a brief personalized note. It lets them know you are thinking about who they are and that you care about them and their progress.
  • Give no make-up exams. Allow students to take tests early, if necessary, but absolutely no make-up exams unless the situation warrants it. Be strong and brave. Solve the problem by giving a comprehensive final exam that increases in worth with each missed test.
  • Keep office hours immediately before and after class time.
  • Go to class early and stay late. Visit with the students and talk about non-class stuff.
  • On test day, put your tests out on the desk tops, then let the students come in.
  • To give the corrected tests back out, put them out for pick up before class time.
  • Manage your classroom environment: clean, tidy, comfortable temperature, etc.
  • Repeat all questions in class and answer all questions for everyone to hear.
  • Get out from behind the lectern, walk around.
  • Since students are territorial they tend to sit in the same seats each class. Pick a student in each section of the room. While walking around during lecture, make a point of making eye contact with that student in each section. It will make everyone in the class think you are talking directly to them.
  • Create gradable exams so you can return them with all alacrity.
  • Make the following policy regarding test arguments: You will accept only written arguments (turned in by the next class period) that include documentation from text, etc. to show why you might be wrong and the student right. Read these carefully and give back thoughtful comments. Accept the argument if it is valid. This will remove all the whiners because they will not put out the effort. Furthermore, each test score is then in the book as an unchangeable grade, thus removing arguments at the end of the semester when folks want to grub for points.
  • Speaking of which – set your final grade policy with the syllabus, remind the students of it occasionally, and stick to it. NO EXCEPTIONS, unless, of course, you want to be miserable during final grade time.

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