Human Relations

, Volume 51, Issue 11, pp 1403–1417 | Cite as

Emotional Aspects of Large Group Teaching

  • David Hogan
  • Richard Kwiatkowski


With the growth of mass education in the U.K.has come the seemingly inevitable growth of large groupteaching. Many “technical” solutions to theproblems of large group teaching have been proposed (e.g., use of microphones, structured handouts,buzz groups, etc.) but we contend that emotional aspectshave been largely neglected and ignored. We argue thatit is legitimate to consider the role of emotion in higher education, and its particular effectsin large teaching groups. While it is, perhaps, easierand safer to pretend that all is well, there are clearemotional consequences to working in these large groups for both students and lecturers. Forinstance, students may experience powerful feelings ofalienation, anger, and envy in large groups andcompensate in various ways, some of which will beantithetical to achieving effective learning and astimulating educational experience. Similarly, lecturerscan also seek to cope with their own feelings of fearand uncertainty by behaving equally maladaptively. We examine the contribution psychodynamic thinkingcan make to our understanding of large teaching groupsand contrast this with the consequences of adhering tosimplistic technical models. We argue for the legitimacy of the role of emotion in highereducation and seek to encourage a debate on this issuewhich will include appropriate research into the effectsof trying to teach and learn in large groups. This paper thus seeks to raise issues andencourage debate in this relatively unresearched area.Further, we contend that it is important and necessaryto conduct appropriate research into the emotional effects of such groups on both teaching andlearning.



Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andresen, L. W. (Ed.). Lecturing to large groups: A guide to doing it less... but better. Birmingham: Staff and Education Deve lopment Association (SEDA Paper 81), 1994.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, C., Foreman-Peck, L. & Higgins, C. Researching into teaching methods: In colleges and universities. London: Kogan Page, 1996.Google Scholar
  3. Bion, W. R. Experiences in grou ps. London: Tavistock, 1961.Google Scholar
  4. Briner, R. B. The Experience and Expression of Emotion at Work. Paper presented at the Occupational Psychology Conference, January, 1995, In S. Newell, e t al. Occupation al psychology conference, book of proceedings. Leice ster: British Psychology Society, 1995.Google Scholar
  5. Bunker, B. B., & Alban, B. T. Editors' introduction: The large group intervention-A new social innovation. Journ al of Applied Behavioral Science, 1992, 28(4), 473–479.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, D. R. Interactive media programmes and the problem of scaling. Active Learning, 1996, 4(July), 9–11.Google Scholar
  7. Dannemiller, K. D., & Jacobs, R. W. Changing the way organizations change: A revolution of common sense. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 1992, 28(4), 480–498.Google Scholar
  8. Fineman, S. (Ed.). Emotion in organizations. London: Sage, 1996.Google Scholar
  9. Gibbs, G. Research into student learning. In B. Smith and S. Brown (Eds.), Research, teaching and learning in higher education. London: Kogan Page, 1996.Google Scholar
  10. Gibbs, G., & Habeshaw, T. Learning to teach: Powerful ideas in teaching and learning. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University, 1996.Google Scholar
  11. Gibbs, G., & Jenkins, A. (Eds.). Teaching large classes in higher education. London: Kogan Page, 1992.Google Scholar
  12. Gibbs, G., Lucas, L., & Simonite, V. Class size and student performance: 1984-94. Studies in Higher Education, 1996, 21(3), 261–273.Google Scholar
  13. Habeshaw, S., Gibbs, G., & Habeshaw, T. 53 Problems with large classes: Making the best of a bad job. Bristol: Technical and Education Services, 1992.Google Scholar
  14. HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING COUNCIL FOR ENGLAND. Profiles of HEFCE Institutions. Bristol: HEFCE, 1994.Google Scholar
  15. Jacques, E. On the dynamics of social structure: A contribution to the psychoanalytic study of social phenomenon deriving from the views of Melanie Klein. Human Relations, 1953, 6, 3–24.Google Scholar
  16. Jacques, E. Social systems as a defence against persecutory and depressive anxiety. In M. Klein e t al. (Eds.), New directions in psychoanalysis. London: Tavistock, 1955.Google Scholar
  17. Jenkins, J. J. Teaching psychology in large classes: research and personal expe rience. Teaching of Psychology, 1991, 18(2), 74–80.Google Scholar
  18. Knapper, C. K., & Cropley, A. J. Lifelong learning and higher education (2nd ed.). London: Kogan Page, 1991.Google Scholar
  19. Kreeger, L. (Ed.). The large group: Dynamics and therapy. London: Constable and Co., 1975.Google Scholar
  20. Lindsay, R., & Paton-Saltzberg, R. Resource changes and academic performance at an English polytechnic. Studies in Higher Education, 1987, 12, 213–227.Google Scholar
  21. Maré, P. B., de, Piper, R., & Thompson, S. Koinonia: From hate through dialogue, to culture in the large group. London: Karnac Books, 1991.Google Scholar
  22. Menzies, I. E. P. The Functioning of Social Systems as a De fence Against Anxie ty. Tavistock Pamphle t No. 3, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London, 1970Google Scholar
  23. Newble, D, & Cannon, R. A handbook for teachers in universities and colleges. London: Kogan Page, 1995.Google Scholar
  24. Phillips, R. Appendix-Growth and diversity: A new era in college and universities. In M. Slowey (Ed.), Implementing change from within universities and colleges. London: Kogan Page, 1995.Google Scholar
  25. Prendergast, G. P. Student-centred learning in the large class setting. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 1994, 18(3), 48–62.Google Scholar
  26. Putman, L. L., & Mumby, D. K. Organizations, emotion and the myth of rationality. In S. Fineman (Ed.), Emotion in organizations. London: Sage, 1993.Google Scholar
  27. Rice, A. K. Learning for leadership. London: Tavistock, 1965.Google Scholar
  28. Scott, P. The meanings of mass higher education. Buckingham: SRHE and Open Unive rsity, 1995.Google Scholar
  29. Slowey, M. (Ed.). Implementing change from within universities and colleges. London: Kogan Page, 1995.Google Scholar
  30. Smith, B., & Brown, S. (Eds.). Research, teaching and learning in higher education. London: Kogan Page, 1995.Google Scholar
  31. Zimbardo, P. Lecture/Seminar on “Teaching Large Groups” given to a staff group at the University of East London. Video: Psychology Department, University of East London, 1992.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Tavistock Institute 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Hogan
  • Richard Kwiatkowski

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations