Challenging, Exciting, Impersonal, Nervous: Academic experiences of large class teaching




teaching at scale, academic development, large classes, massification, higher education teaching


Massification of Higher Education has resulted in a rapid increase in undergraduate populations, without an increase in the number of teaching staff. One consequence is that students are typically taught in larger classes. While the impact of class size on student satisfaction and attainment is debated, there has been little attention paid to the academic experience of large class teaching. We present results of a questionnaire completed by 80 academics, primarily based in the UK. Academics perceived classes of 100 or more as large, and most had taught classes of several hundred students. Academic perceptions of large class teaching varied considerably. We find no evidence that institution type or contract type affects perceptions of large class teaching. We also find a lack of training that specifically addresses the demands of large class teaching. We call on academic developers to support academics teaching large cohorts to ensure effective education at scale.

Author Biographies

Katharine Hubbard, University of Hull

Katharine Hubbard is a lecturer in Biological Sciences at the University of Hull. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and has won several institutional and national awards for teaching excellence.

Lucy Tallents

Lucy Tallents is a freelance conservation educator. She was previously a member of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford, where she developed award winning online conservation training programmes.


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Original Research