Some examples of innovative practices at UCD for engaging large classes

Purcell, Patrick J., Loughran, Hilda and Dunnion, John (2011) Some examples of innovative practices at UCD for engaging large classes. [Conference Proceedings]


This paper describes some examples of developing innovative approaches for teaching large classes at UCD, as follows: (1) The experience of developing a suite of 'General Electives' at UCD for large groups of students; (2) Some examples of innovative practices for engaging and assessing large classes. In 2005, the undergraduate programme in UCD was transformed to a modular, credit-based system. As part of that re-structuring, all programmes had to provide 30 credits of electives over the first three years of study, to provide students with the opportunity to introduce 'breadth' into their individual programmes. A suite of 'General Electives' was developed in 2009 with the following key objectives: (a) Increasing elective capacity in areas where there was a significant perceived student demand; (b) Enhancing the academic quality and learning experience of students. 'General Electives' are modules primarily developed for students outside the programme and are designed to give students a 'taste' of the subject. As part of a Teaching and Academic Development Fellowship, the authors undertook a review of the General Electives. The paper describes the results of this research and examines how successful the suite of electives was in meeting the original objectives. Some of the General Electives were delivered to large classes, and the paper describes the results of research into student and lecturer experience. The second part of the paper describes a number of examples of innovative developments in UCD generally dealing with large group teaching, including: • Use of 'blended' learning to improve student engagement and promote deeper learning in large class settings; • Use of virtual laboratories to overcome the problems of providing physical laboratories for large classes in a time of diminishing resources; • Use of small-group teaching approaches for large classes using techniques such as peer- assisted mentoring as an alternative to the more conventional lecture format.

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