Fostering active participation and student engagement in large lecture theatre settings

LUMS Lecture theatre

Akash Shukla – Masters in Economics, Management School

Akash Shukla is working with academics Helen Meek, Richard Meek and Hilary Thomas from the Management School to explore different approaches to fostering active participation and student engagement in large lecture theatre settings.

The project’s aspiration comes from the fact that students’ feedback for lecturers is often disappointing. Lecturers often, through no fault of their own, fail to communicate effectively with the students. There seem to be an informational asymmetry amongst the two groups. This project is designed to get a better understanding of what the students are after as well as how the lecturers can make their lectures more engaging. The goals of the project are:

  1. Gain an insight into what is driving students to being hesitant in taking part in a lecture. Understand the heterogeneity in the expectations of student across different courses as well as those on the same course. Once this is understood, present this information in a useful manner for the lecturers to use at their discretion.
  2. Search for outstanding lecture practices, analyse them, and find commonalities in what makes these practices so effective. This will be done by talking to lecturers at Lancaster University as well as looking for such practices online.

The process that Akash will follow to achieve the goals:

  1. Carry out empirical research to find out what makes an engaging lecture theatre setting, by looking at journal articles from psychology as well as looking for outstanding practices available on the web.
  2. Design and circulate a survey to collect data on student preferences, i.e. what would they themselves like to see their lecturers do and what style of lectures is more favourable. If possible, meet with students to further investigate this particular subject.
  3. Look at how new technological advances can be integrated into lectures to encourage student participation i.e. the use of TurningPoint.
  4. Meet with lecturers to understand the problem form their point of view, as well as to gather information on what the lecturers are doing to combat this issue.
  5. Produce a “cook-book” which can be used by lecturers, from which they can pick and choose elements they feel will make their lectures more engaging.

This project in reality never finishes, the idea is that more material and examples can always be added to this cook-book by other individuals in the future, it’s an ever evolving object in itself.


Project Update: May 2018

Due to unforeseen circumstances not all of the activities of the large class teaching ‘cookbook project’ were completed within the timescale that Akash remained at Lancaster.  However, as we were all keen that the work which had been completed already should not be lost – and because we know how the cookbook has sparked colleagues’ imagination – we invited one of the new ISS Digital Learning Facilitators, Phil Devine, to help us finish things off.  The intention is that once we have created this Lancaster cookbook that we can add more examples and inspirations as they come to light; and Phil will be well placed within the Digital Learning and Teaching team to take care of it.

So, where are we up to?  At the moment we’re talking to more lecturers about what they find works and how they tackle the challenges of large class teaching.  We’ve analysed the data generated from the student survey (186 responses ) and will use this to provide a context for the lecturers’ ideas and inspirations. There’ll be a period of compilation and creation while we draw everything together and then this will culminate in the production of both an online and a (lighter ) printed version of  a ‘large class teaching cookbook’ ready for the new academic year.


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