UDL in Large Classes
One of the most common complaints about UDL is that it can be difficult to implement in large classes. There is no doubt that large classes are becoming more common in post-secondary and that offering choice to 100 students can seem overwhelming, but it is possible. Faculty members question how they can make the marking fair across a variety of different assignments. You may be able to use one rubric to mark all assignments as the objectives of each assignment may be the same. For example: students have demonstrated their understanding of the concepts; students have applied the concepts, students have analyzed the concepts, etc. in order to complete the assignment.
Student supports through UDL:
- To help students prepare for mid-semester exams have them do short exercises that they can work on in pairs in class. Solutions are discussed in the next class session and then posted to the course site. These solutions are evaluated using a simplified grading system so that they can be compared with later test scores. Because there is a close correlation, students are motivated to attend class regularly and participate in the exercises.
- Have students at the end of class write one exam question based on that day's lecture. This variation on the minute paper not only gives the instructor instant feedback but may also result in some good questions that could be included on exams.
- Many instructors include some writing component on their exams, from an occasional essay question that can be answered correctly in many different ways to partial credit, one-line explanations of multiple-choice answers.
- Provide students a choice between multiple-choice and essay versions - it has been found that students often do better on essay-type questions.
When teaching, keep in mind those characteristics of some of the worst classes or teachers that you've had - and don't repeat them. For example:
- The monotone voice;
- Reading from the text or PowerPoint slides;
- 75 minutes of non-stop lecturing;
- Little or no eye contact with audience;
- Outdated or incorrect information;
- Disorganized and confusing lecture;
- Technology that doesn't work;
- A repetition of what is in the textbook so why is the class necessary?
How to improve learning in the large class:
- Before class begins, write key words/concepts/names/dates (whatever is appropriate) on the board or prepare an outline in advance to facilitate note taking. This simple document can be posted on the course web site.
- Consider posting PowerPoint presentations and other notes well in advance of the class to allow students to begin working on the material before they begin classes. Not all students will take advantage of this, but those with disabilities or those whose first language is not English may find it very useful.
- For complex subjects or topics unavailable to the students in textbooks or other sources, have some written or multimedia resource available for students to review.
- Provide diagrams, online or in class, which would be difficult for students to copy in their notes;
- Consider using virtual clickers throughout the class to check student understanding;
- Try to provide hints or "cues" during the course of the lecture that students may use to remember important points. Attach the concept to a word, phrase, or image for better recall;
- Use examples and images when explaining concepts and principles;
- Divide your lectures into segments (do not lecture for more than 15 minutes at a time) and break the constant talk with active learning techniques like Think - Pair - Share, discussions, or problem solving, to reinforce learning;
- Try to be enthusiastic and expressive when lecturing. Vary your voice, move around, use gestures;
- Today's students are visual creatures. Use visual as often as possible such as graphics, charts, mind maps, concept drawings, etc.;
- If a student asks a question - welcome it. Be enthusiastic in your response. This will encourage more participation. And tell students when they have responded correctly;
- Avoid continuous note taking by providing handouts or outlines. Note taking can require considerable mental processing which is why a break with a short learning activity is often welcome. You may want to consider having assigned note takers where notes are posted to course site so students can check their notes against those of others;
- At the end of the class, summarize the important points which were covered during the lecture and give the students some idea of what to look forward to for the next time.
Source: University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Faculty Center for Teaching and e-Learning.