Higher Education

, Volume 74, Issue 4, pp 651–668 | Cite as

Embedding engaged learning in high enrollment lecture-based classes

  • Kathy Lund DeanEmail author
  • Sarah Wright


Engaged learning opportunities have become powerful foundations upon which students build lifelong skills and organizational capacities. Research has empirically validated the long-term positive learning impacts of active and experiential learning opportunities for students. As such, institutional administrators and external stakeholders have encouraged and, in some cases, required that faculty use engaged teaching methods. At the same time, difficult economic circumstances continue to batter higher education, with class sizes increasing to improve efficiencies and reduce instructional costs. The confluence of those two trends has resulted in calls to integrate engaged learning opportunities in large higher education classes, engendering special challenges for educators. It is within this particular gap—practical guidance for transforming passive course designs to active ones—that our article contributes to the international higher education literature. We share our experiences implementing engaged learning practices into large university classes over a 4-year period, guided by an experiential learning theoretical framework. By analyzing text from our individual teaching journals and collaborative post-mortems, we are able to introduce an integrative model highlighting important contextual and logistical issues that must be considered: pre-class planning, in-class facilitation, assessments and feedback, training and renorming student expectations, and institutional context. We end the article with caveats and ethical considerations when introducing engaged learning into large classes.


Experiential learning Large class Engaged learning Lecture theater Active vs passive learning Massification 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Board of Trustees Distinguished Chair in Leadership & EthicsGustavus Adolphus CollegeSt. PeterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, College of Business and LawUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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