The focus of the research was to develop, implement and evaluate a model for effective learning and teaching in a large class to promote active engagement with students and encourage deep learning.
The evaluation process involves feedback from students, the teaching team and co-researchers through regular dialogue to identify possible ways to improve teaching and learning in a large class. We were interested in understanding the way the students interpreted their experiences, how they construct their worlds, and what meaning, if any they attribute to their experiences. The students' learning experiences during lectures and tutorials were evaluated using Brookfield's Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ). The CIQ is a method of collecting data to find out how students experience their learning i.e. on specific concrete 'happenings' or 'events' rather than what student's like or dislike.
To evaluate their teaching experience the co-researchers kept reflective journals to record their experiences and challenge any assumptions or presumptions they may have.
The initial analysis of the feedback indicates that student's experiences of learning in a large class are diverse but there are identifiable themes which are consistent with the literature including a preference for smaller class sizes experienced in tutorials during which the environmental factors were more conducive to learning, and establish student/teacher relationships
Evaluation of the co-researcher's reflective journals highlighted their struggle to engage effectively with students in a large class setting. They experienced was tension between the need to 'deliver' the content, encourage deep learning and manage the learning process.
The model of teaching and learning evaluated worked well for a class of less than one hundred students and less effective for a class of one hundred and eighty students. The research is ongoing and has evolved into a wider discussion and exploration of the scholarship of teaching and learning particularly in relation to teaching sociology.