Students prefer not to be in them and most professors prefer not to teach them, but with shrinking faculty numbers and a large student body, courses with big enrolments are here to stay. We asked a quartet of award-winning teachers for their thoughts on handling a large class.

Rhonda Amsel, Lecturer, Department of Psychology, 1997 CASE/CCAE Professor of the Year

Energy, good preparation and organization are a must, just as they are for a small class. Some students feel intimidated by the size of the class. You can encourage their participation through small-group work and problem-based class exercises. As the class size increases, so does the background noise and movement. You should provide short reviews and reiterate main points to maintain the focus. Also, the diversity in students' background preparation may require you to increase your availability in order to accommodate individual needs.

David Harpp, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Winner of the American Chemical Society's 1996 Edward Leete Award for excellence in teaching and research

A very organized program is essential here; because of the class size, not every student will be personally known. Students must clearly know what is expected of them as opposed to having to guess "what the professor wants." Aids such as class notes, problem sets and old exams with answers are necessities, as is a class format with key visuals. In addition, question/answer opportunities both in and out of class (supplemented by e-mail, tutorials and personal contact) are important. Finally, it works well to provide multiple mid-term exams (two or three, as opposed to a single opportunity) presented with ample time for problem-solving (early evening) in a format adhering to Senate exam rules for scrambled seating.

David Plant, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Winner of the Faculty of Engineering's 1996 Engineering Alumni Award for Outstanding Teaching

Organization is extremely important. Students should be given a clear road map of the course objectives, and the instructor's expectations. The web is an extremely valuable teaching tool in this regard. Lectures must be clear and effectively delivered. It is imperative that the instructor keep his/her finger on the pulse of the class in order to effectively regulate the flow of topics, materials, and ideas. I do this by repeatedly asking students during class to put up their hands if they're following me. I also talk to students who visit me during office hours or who I encounter in the hallways and ask them if the course is working well. The instructor must assure the class that although the numbers are large, every student's success is important and that every student brings value to the learning environment. There is so much diversity in a large class, if it's harnessed properly, it can be a ton of fun.

Faith Wallis, Assistant Professor, Departments of History and Social Studies of Medicine, Winner of the Faculty of Arts 1997 H. Noel Fieldhouse Award for Outstanding Teaching

The most important thing to bear in mind is that each of those faces out there is an individual student, with unique reasons for taking your course, and a unique mental universe. This may sound counter-intuitive, but I think that the best way to connect with those individuals is to work hard on my lecturing -- not just its content, but also its performance. If an inspired soloist performs a great piece of music, the audience, even if it is in a huge concert hall, forgets that it is a crowd: each individual feels that the music is speaking directly to him or her. That performance standard, where meaningful and well-structured content is conveyed with a kind of artistry that engages the individual, is one that I very, very seldom attain. But I am convinced that it can make a large course as rewarding for the individual student as a small one.