Adapting Teaching Techniques: Scaling

So far we have considered best practices for classroom culture and content delivery, but have not yet discussed much how the size of the class affects how you teach. When considering how to adapt our teaching techniques for various class sizes, we call this scaling, a term used in education to describe the process of being aware of particular learning needs in different sizes of classrooms. When we are talking about adapting teaching techniques, we are talking about adapting by scaling up or scaling down. For example, how would you adapt your teaching techniques for a class of 20 students, 50 students, or 200 students? A student-centred approach that implements active or cooperative learning can help with scaling. When scaling, the Active Learning and Adapting Teaching Techniques guide will also be helpful as it provides options for adapting each of these activities to larger class sizes. Below are six considerations for scaling and how to think through their implementation in the classroom.

  1. Space or setting: Are you in a classroom, laboratory, or a lecture hall?
  2. Activity difficulty level: Should it be simple or complex?
  3. Timing: Do you have five minutes or forty-five minutes for an activity?
  4. Organization or degree of collaboration: Do you want students to work independently, in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class?
  5. Visual aids: Will you use the chalkboard, slideware, instructional videos, or an electronic whiteboard?
  6. Educational technology: Will you use Quercus, screen capture, or a student response system to electronically engage students?

When thinking about scaling, spend some time first thinking about what teaching successes you have already had and how you might adapt those to a larger class. Every class size has benefits and complications, so be mindful that something that works well in a small class might not work well in a large class and vice versa. If a first attempt does not go as planned, be patient with yourself and be open to trying it again with some revision.