Do Large Lecture Halls Offer a Good Learning Environment?

Do Large Lecture Halls Offer a Good Learning Environment

Higher education comes in many forms, from small private colleges with one professor for every seven students, to enormous universities which utilize teaching assistants for almost all offered classes. The question I have as a student at Purdue, a university with around 35,000 students, is are large lecture halls with more than two hundred students effective places for learning to occur? When there are that many pupils in a classroom, it is nearly impossible for an instructor to take attendance. What is the motivation to attend class? Further, are students able to understand material presented in a classroom when there are hundreds more people in the classroom rustling papers, dropping pens, and whispering sarcastic comments about the lecture?

In order to answer some of the above questions, I decided to study one of my largest lecture classes, Psychology 120 under Bob Melara. Class is held in an enormous lecture hall, which seats over five hundred students. In order to learn the answers, I did research for several weeks. I handed out questionnaires to other students at Purdue and observed Melara’s class for about two weeks. In addition, I interviewed Saree Strom, a student in the honors section of Psychology 120.

The class of Melara’s that I studied meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 4:30 and 5:20 PM. Class is held in the giant lecture hall on the first floor of the Lily Hall of Sciences on State Street. There are about five hundred students in this section, and the seats are set up like a stadium so that each row is higher than the one below it. In addition to the regular class, the honors students meet Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:20. As honors students, their responsibilities increase to planning and leading small groups for each of the four labs that all students are required to do during the semester. There are twenty honors students in this section.

The students in psychology discovered on the first day of class that the professor was a little out of the ordinary. He walked into class and announced, “Hello, my name is Robert Melara, but I am not overly fond of that name. What you refer to me as when I am not around is unimportant, but please address me only as Bob.” His hair is sort of long and shaggy, and it appears as though he never combs it.
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