Douglas KlutzDoug Klutz, instructor in the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, gives his advice on lecturing in large classrooms: 

My efforts to bring the hit television series Ozark and Breaking Bad (Better Call Saul too for you BB fans out there!) to the “big screen” have been successful over the years teaching 400+ seat Introduction to Criminal Justice courses in 159 Russell Hall. If you are not familiar with the classroom, it has a little bit of an IMAX theater vibe minus the motion-enabled chairs. The expansive nature of the classroom can be a little intimidating at first, but it also has the potential to be packed with a high level of energy. I look forward to teaching these large intro sections every semester because I get to meet so many students from diverse backgrounds with varying reasons for taking CJ 100.

The dynamics of the sheer size of the classroom present unique challenges for student engagement. One effective strategy I have found with teaching these large course sections is to tie in information the students are already familiar with (like popular television series) and establish a connection to classroom learning objectives. This strategy can provide an engaging spark to begin class, and I find the information better resonates with students.

My goal with learning by association is to make the course material as relatable as possible for students. Students’ familiarity with popular criminal justice-related television shows and movies has provided opportunities for learning by association with these topics, which makes learning objectives easier to attain. For example, when teaching about financial crimes, I show short clips from Ozark and Breaking Bad to demonstrate what money laundering entails. Halfway through the class, I sometimes show another clip to help maintain students’ attention; to illustrate, I have shown a video of someone driving a Bugatti sports car into a body of water in an attempt to commit insurance fraud (true story!).

Doug Klutz lectures in front of students.Again, I find these video snippets provide opportunities for students to engage in active learning through association and help drive home the lessons students learn by actively establishing connections and making these connections into meaningful concepts. The short clips are fun, informative and help maintain students’ attention in a large lecture hall.

If you are presented with the opportunity to teach a large class in the future, think about ways to keep the classroom engaged through learning activities designed to bridge what students have already been exposed to with meaningful concepts tied into larger learning objectives for the course. This will help contribute to the goal of working together to create knowledge within the construct of expansive sections of student enrollment.