1. Teaching Large Classes
    1. Challenges
    2. Practical Suggestions
    3. Enhancing Student Engagement in Large Lecture Classes
  2. Using Peer Instruction to Promote Active Learning
    1. What is peer instruction?
    2. General guidelines
  3. Group Work
    1. Group work models
    2. Student and instructor roles in group work
    3. Creating a successful team learning experience
    4. Potential challenges – and solutions
  4. Discussion Facilitation Techniques
    1. Introductory activities
    2. In-depth discussion techniques
  5. Lifecycle of a Discussion Group
  6. Effective Discussion Questions
    1. Types of questions
    2. Common non-questions to avoid
  7. Out-of-the-Ordinary Classroom Situations
    1. Emergency Procedures

Teaching Large Classes

Teaching large classes can sometimes feel overwhelming. For many instructors it’s easier to imagine and introduce active learning and student-centered course design in small, seminar-type courses.

Large classes with a lot of students seem to lend themselves to presentation-style lectures. Yet, there are lots of advantages to teaching large classes. For example, large numbers and variety of students often make for especially invigorating and critical discussions. These aspects of large classes can be promoted via use of clickers or peer instruction, for instance.

Below, we consider some challenges instructors face in teaching large classes and offer practical suggestions for dealing with them.


  • Students become faces instead of people
  • It’s hard for lecturers to covey their care for and commitment to students
  • It’s harder to give individual advice and guidance
  • Instructors may work in teams, which may be an unfamiliar experience; there are reports that not all team members contribute equally
  • Organizational problems are compounded, making it difficult to schedule tutorials, laboratory sessions and/or fieldwork
  • Instructors have less flexibility
  • There can be technical problems working in large lecture halls: inadequate microphones, projected slides that are not clearly visible, inadequate projectors
  • Facing an unbroken array of faces can be intimidating
  • Some people fear control problems
  • It can be impossible to monitor attendance
  • There is a feeling that one needs to be a charismatic performer to work with large numbers of students simultaneously
  • Coping with large numbers of assignments and examination scripts can be a source of difficulty
  • The quality of feedback to students can be reduced due to high marking load

Practical Suggestions

Be organized and efficient

  • Large classes need more preparation and structure
  • Teaching aids, demonstrations and activities often need handouts with clear, detailed descriptions. You can make these handouts available online to avoid printing costs and having to spend time handing them out in class

Work to build connections with students

  • Learn at least some students’ names and use them during class
  • Increase students’ access to you, e.g. arrive early or stay after class, hold extra office hours
  • Listen to students’ questions and comments and try to avoid distractions when they talk to you
  • Reduce anonymity. For example, introduce ‘get-to-know-you’ index cards where students list their names and a personal interest, upon which you can than draw for in-class discussions
  • Call on different volunteers, when appropriate, and ask non-volunteers for input

Provide a variety of experiences

  • Vary instructional methods and media
  • Plan and encourage in-class discussion and interaction
  • Use a variety of active learning techniques
  • Break up the flow of class by, for example, pausing every 15 minutes for interim summaries, and planned and unplanned questions

Use technology to your advantage

  • Use videos to help with in-class demonstrations
  • Use a learning management system to, if nothing else, help organize class materials for yourself and students
  • Add self-paced learning modules to class via cuLearn

Learn about what support you have, and use it

  • Students and/or teaching assistants can help with locating, reproducing and distributing class materials
  • Students and/or teaching assistants can help to organize and/or lead group lectures/tutorials/study sessions
  • Students and/or teaching assistants can aid with test assignment construction
  • Teaching assistants can help with various administrative details

Make the class feel smaller

  • Have students meet at least some of their peers during first class
  • Move about the room
  • Be welcoming to all students and show your enthusiasm for the class and related materials
  • Give lots of eye contact to students
  • Relate lecture materials to a variety of experiences/interests
  • Give personalized feedback when appropriate and possible
  • Encourage students to contribute materials to discussions
  • Break the class up into smaller discussion groups whenever possible

Enhancing Student Engagement in Large Lecture Classes

Increasingly, instructors are being encouraged to explore techniques to enhance student participation in large lecture classes. The rationale for such activities focus on claims that increased student engagement leads to enhanced motivation, greater comprehension and even stronger class attendance.

While these outcomes should serve as goals for any class size, they are particularly important for large classes where instructors frequently find student engagement and motivation challenging to achieve. These four strategies can help enhance the learning environment.


Many instructors have encountered the “silent discomfort” to the question “Are there any questions?” Research suggests that students need 3-5 seconds to reflect on prior instruction and formulate a question, however, most instructors wait only about one second before determining that it’s time to move on. The simple practice of providing students with more time to formulate a question (i.e. 3-5 seconds) typically results in a significant increase in student participation.

Clickers can also help overcome the “silent discomfort” because they allow students to answer anonymously. They also allow instructors to assess student understanding, receive immediate feedback, poll students, engage shy students, and observe students’ misconceptions.

Another way to broaden students’ participation is by using Twitter via laptops or cell phones. During lectures, students tweet their questions and/or comments while the instructor and TA monitor postings, respond to real-time questions, and mark “favourite” tweets to indicate most helpful ideas.


The technique, as outlined in a teaching resource from the University of Waterloo, involves four steps:

  • Provide the entire class a thoughtful and challenging question to consider
  • Ask each student to independently construct a response to the question (2-3 minutes)
  • Ask students to pair up with a person beside them and share their ideas
  • Give the pair of students an opportunity to share their thoughts with the larger class

You can also use clickers for this activity like professor Eric Mazur of Harvard University does. He displays a short concept test on a screen every 15 minutes. Students get one minute to think about it and punch their answers using clickers. The computer instantly displays the percentage of students who answered correctly.

After making their first response, students are asked to convince their neighbours what the right answer should be. In the process, students will argue and defend their positions, thus testing their true understanding of the concepts involved in the question. They are then asked to respond to the question again. This increases both students’ confidence and the percentage of correct answers.

This activity has a number of advantages for the instructor, including getting students to actively engage with the material. The strategy also addresses the potential problem of student discomfort. Many students find offering a response in a class of 200-300 peers intimidating. Think-Pair-Share offers students the opportunity to “field test“ their response with a peer, which often results in a stronger response and a greater confidence to share their ideas with the larger class.


This activity attempts to discover what students already know about a topic. Brainstorming can be used on the first day of class or at the beginning of a new unit. The instructor initiates a topic and then asks students to offer anything that they know or have heard or read about that subject.

The instructor records all comments, regardless of whether they reveal misunderstandings or misconceptions and then addresses these particular issues after the list has been completed. The activity ends when all comments have been offered or by a predetermined time limit.

Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups. They can gather information about a specific idea, process or event, locate an image to illustrate a concept, gather supporting arguments for different sides of a controversial issue, or verify or contest a hypothesis.

A group’s brainstorm can be shared or displayed to the entire class by having the group’s computer connect to the class’ data projector, or by sending their brainstorm file to the instructor (via email). If the brainstorm activity is conducted in a collaborative writing tool like a Google Doc or Wiki, the instructor can display it and add comments or ideas.

A number of tasks and cautions exist for the instructor in implementing this strategy:

  • As the responses are offered, the instructor can categorize them into themes/topics or get students to categorize them, providing a very powerful learning exercise.
  • The instructor needs to address any misinformation/misconceptions that the comments might reflect. Generally, it’s recommended that these issues be addressed at a subsequent time to avoid the direct linking of the problematic comment with the student who just offered it. Some instructors address these comments at the end of class, after the break or even the next class.

The one-minute paper

This strategy places greater emphasis on the potential of written responses. While there are a number of variations on this technique, the general format involves asking students to take 1-3 minutes at the end of the class to answer the following questions:

  • What is the most significant thing you learned today?
  • What question is at the top of your mind at the end of today’s class?

Students submit anonymous responses and the instructor uses the information to more effectively structure their next class and their teaching overall. This activity can also been done electronically – students can submit their answers anonymously by using a survey tool inside cuLearn.

Many instructors choose to use the technique 3-4 times throughout the term. The comments frequently touch on areas beyond the direct content and thereby provide an informal source of information that goes beyond what the instructor might get from reviewing performance on formal measures of assessment.

At the core of this strategy is the recognition that engaging students in the act of self-reflection on their learning is a valuable and necessary activity to enhance student performance. These opportunities scattered throughout the term are important sources of information to both students and instructors to establish what the class understands and what areas of the course need further clarification or study.

Using Peer Instruction to Promote Active Learning

What is peer instruction?

Peer instruction is an interactive technique that promotes active learning among students. As the name implies, students in the class are called upon to explain concepts to one another. The role of the teacher is to design questions that will effectively assess and promote comprehension of key and difficult concepts, and to give students the opportunity to test and share their knowledge with their peers.

Peer instruction can be used in conjunction with other pedagogical practices, such as flipped classrooms. It does not have to rely on the use of any one educational technology and it can be extended beyond the strict space of the classroom by incorporating concept tests into a cuLearn page, for example. The main thrust behind the use of peer instruction is to ensure that students are actively engaged throughout the learning process.

General guidelines

Although there are different ways to use peer instruction as part of your pedagogical toolkit, having a set of general guidelines may help you incorporate and adapt this technique to your own teaching environment:

  1. Identify concepts with which students tend to struggle in your course.
  2. Design questions which effectively test students’ comprehension of these concepts (concept tests).
  3. Break up the passive learning format of a lecture by including one such question every 10-15 minutes.
  4. Pose the concept test to the class and ask students to respond (e.g. though “clickers” or cue cards).
  5. Collect the responses in order to assess how well students can apply the concept and/or give students an opportunity to gauge where they are in relation to their classmates.
  6. Particularly when there is variation in the responses given by students, ask them to discuss their answer with someone who had a different answer from themselves.
  7. After these discussions, conduct another poll of responses.
  8. Explain or ask a student in class to explain the rationale that leads to the right answer (if there is only one correct response).

Remember, this is a general guideline. You can adapt peer instruction to use in small classrooms or outside the space of the classroom through web-based components. It can be used for questions where there are multiple correct answers and/or as a way of generating debate about a concept where there is no scholarly agreement.

Group Work

Learning theories stress that social engagement with others about new material is key to effective and deep learning: students gain deep, long-lasting knowledge about new concepts when they spend time discussing, investigating, and/or applying them with other students. In this context, the instructor’s role is to design and facilitate learning experiences that encourage students to engage in social activity centered on their subject matter.

Group work – whether in the form of short, in-class activities or a longer-term team project – is an effective way to create interactive learning experiences. When group work is well-designed, there are many benefits to students: deep learning of course material, learning more effective communication and negotiation skills, developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and cultivating a sense of confidence and independence (Shimanzoe and Aldrich, 2010).

Group work models

There are a variety of ways to design group work activities in your class. Group work can be used for in-class activities, out-of-class projects, or both. It may follow a cooperative or a collaborative learning model. In the first instance, the instructor provides a lot of structure in group formation and the processes involved in completing work. In the case of collaborative learning, the students who form the team design their own inquiry process.

Co-operative learning model

  1. Instructor plays a large role, maintaining control, posing questions and defining final product
  2. Instructor as supervisor – responsible for a range of things like forming groups, setting guidelines for division of labour, identifying the tasks in the process, setting a detailed work schedule, and checking in often with groups or requiring reports along the way
  3. Group members work together to solve predefined problem or achieve a predefined goal.
  4. Structured and close-ended since instructor defines process and product
  5. Instructor sets assessment with little to no negotiation with groups
  6. Groups submit final product to instructor

Collaborative learning model

  1. Instructor’s role is minor
  2. Instructor as resource – although instructor can and should step in in the case of major problems, and might set timelines for consultations with each group to ensure they are on track
  3. Group members define their own work process, set the guidelines for division of labour, produce a work schedule, touch base with one another to keep each other on track – the students are responsible for deciding how to define and solve problems as they proceed
  4. Open-ended process where group defines the final product
  5. Instructor and groups negotiate assessment
  6. Groups present results and reasoning to rest of class

Student and instructor roles in group work

Several roles are central to the smooth functioning of group work. You can take on some or all of these roles yourself or you might also prefer to take on one of these roles and ensure that each group has one member who is willing to take on one of the other roles.

  • Leader/facilitator: clarifies aims and agenda, ensures all members understand their tasks and how they fit into the larger group project, keeps track of deadlines to make sure they are met
  • Arbitrator/monitor: observes group functioning, clarifies communication, oversees arguments to suggest resolutions, ensures tasks are completed and on time
  • Note-taker/time-keeper: takes notes to share with group, summarizes discussions, tracks time of meetings/activities, presents ideas to class/instructor
  • Devil’s advocate: guards against groupthink, ensures all arguments are heard, open mind to anticipate possible problems/delays/alternate ideas, does quality control checking

You might also want to assign or ask groups to decide on their decision-making process.

  • By authority: best when there is a clear expert – although fast, it negates benefits of group work
  • By majority: fast process, students consider democratic – important points may be overlooked
  • By ranking: everyone ranks ideas, highest overall ranked idea wins – might have solution nobody fully supports
  • By unanimity: everyone has to agree – takes a long time and sometimes impossible to reach

Creating a successful team learning experience

Communication skills

These require a lot of work and some students may, at first, have difficulty with them. Your students may need regular feedback on their communication skills (meeting with groups to ask questions or giving them a set of questions to help guide them might help here). You might also consider giving students feedback on their communication skills through peer assessment, instructor comments, and/or self-reflection. To help groups with their communication skills, ask them to

  • identify and clarify their unspoken assumptions
  • learn to trust group members to communicate honestly (i.e., don’t take disagreements as personal attacks, don’t be afraid to disagree, question but don’t attack others’ ideas)
  • guard against poor listening skills
  • work toward listening to and learning from ideas that are different from their own

In other words, you need to teach students that honest and respectful communication around disagreements is their biggest source of strength as a group and an important learning opportunity for them as individuals.

Creating – and maintaining – a positive learning environment

If students are able to work on their communication skills, they can begin to contribute to creating a positive learning environment where there is open discussion of ideas, each group member feels that their input is valued, everyone is willing to honestly and respectfully point out potential problems with ideas, and each person feels they are supported by and can rely on group members.

As the instructor, it is important to monitor the group work process and to play a role in creating and maintaining a positive learning environment. Put differently, your role is to be each group’s overall group manager. In this role, you can discuss the group work process with students. Be honest with them about potential problems and rewards.

Some instructors use group contracts. These include expected behaviours of all group members, but focus on only those behaviours that will affect the group work process (i.e. listening to others, meeting deadlines, etc.).

Problem solving and critical thinking

A well-designed group project will help students develop their problem solving and critical thinking skills. If students learn how to identify and question unspoken assumptions, ask each other questions for clarification, and collaborate to ensure a better end result, for example, they are well on their way to becoming more critical thinkers.

A cohesive group will have better outcomes in this area than a group that is fraught with difficulties, so keep groups on track and make sure you check in with them regularly. There are a few potential problems you can anticipate and be prepared to address.

Potential challenges – and solutions

Group members talk too much

Speak to a domineering group member privately about the importance of listening for their learning process and the end result. Remind them that if they listen to their group members, they might discover something new or a problem they had not anticipated.

You might want to assign group members’ roles for next meeting, make this person the note-taker, and ask them to reflect on what they learned in their newly assigned role. You can also work with the whole group to ask them to reflect on whether someone tends to take the lead in their meetings and why.

Group members talk too little

Speak to a group member who is especially quiet to find out if there are particular fears or group dynamics which are acting as barriers to their sharing their ideas. Use some written work when possible as a way to draw out this person’s contribution.

You might consider assigning group roles for the next meeting, asking this person to be the leader, and asking them to reflect on taking on that role. You could also ask the group to hold their next meeting online instead of in person – sometimes students who re quiet in person will contribute a lot more in an online environment.

Group discussion is not on task

Keep in mind that some off-task talk is important for group cohesion. It allows students to get to know each other, become more comfortable, and to have fun learning.

If you worry that too much time will be spent in off-task discussion during in-class group work, give each group a few minutes to get to know each other at the beginning of the task – consider giving them an ice-breaker to help with group cohesion.

You can also remind groups of the time limits for accomplishing the task and/or that they may be asked to present their solution to the rest of the group. It may be that you have anticipated more time than necessary for the task – alter the time limits or break down the tasks further for them. Speak with a group that seems off-task to ask them what they have found up to this point and to ask them specific questions to focus them back on the task.

We’re not getting anything done!

If a group is not getting anything done, you will need to help them manage their process and/or dynamics to get back on track. Try to prevent this problem and have a means of addressing it if it arises by asking groups to submit a work plan early on. If you have used group work contracts, return to these and discuss them with the group. Ask the group some of the following questions:

  1. Have you missed any of the deadlines/subtasks along the way? If so, why? How will you get back on track now?
  2. Is someone not living up to their share of the work? What was your strategy to address that?
  3. Are your meetings efficient? Can you share your meeting minutes with me so we can try to identify some of the issues?
  4. Should you be meeting/working more outside of class time?
  5. Are you spending too much time on one part of the process and not enough on another part?
  6. Do you need to break down the work more and delegate tasks more effectively?

Discussion Facilitation Techniques

Discussion groups are an excellent method for engaging students in learning and reinforcing course material. The following are a few creative techniques to help you facilitate effective discussion groups. EDC staff is always available to help you find or refine more discipline-specific techniques!

Introductory activities

These activities will help get the conversation started. Use other techniques for in-depth discussions.

  • Topic-icebreakers: At the beginning of the discussion, ask a relevant and provocative question that can be readily answered. Ask each student for a brief response to the question.
  • Polling: Ask a series of questions at the beginning of class to the students who respond with a show of hands, or at the end of class that students respond to on paper. Comments are summarized and shared back to the group during the next class. When used at the end of class, this technique can ask students a variety of questions such as what they did not understand, what they would like to cover, where confusion exists or to gauge their level of knowledge on the subject material.
  • Continuum or Value Line: Ask students to line up according to their understanding/experience/confidence of the question or topic posed. Follow up by hearing back from each student.
  • Voting: Variation on polling. Students vote (or rank preferences) by sticking coloured stickers on their choice of answer(s) to a question(s).

In-depth discussion techniques

These follow well after introductory activities and are designed to help structure a discussion and involve every student.

  • Buzz groups: Students discuss topic question in groups of two or three. Then a spokesperson from each group or each student reports back to the larger group.
  • Brainstorming: Create a focus question or topic for brainstorming. The question or topic needs to be broad enough to give opportunities for answers but not too broad. Make it relevant. Students provide input but no analysis or critique is allowed. Write suggestions on the board. Stop the exercise when input flags. Sorting and analysis takes place only after brainstorming is finished.
  • Round table: A question is asked and every student is asked to respond. Give students a few minutes to think, have them write down their responses, and then begin roundtable. Start at one end or side of room and work your way around so that no one is missed. Give students the option of a pass, so that no one is embarrassed by not having an answer.
  • Debates: Divide class into two teams. Assign a role or perspective to each team. Each student on the team presents for a few minutes from that perspective only. Then switch.
  • Posters: In small groups, students prepare posters that show their ideas, response or suggestions. Could be used to find out where students misunderstand the course material.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Each student jots down their ideas in response to a posed question. In pairs, students exchange ideas. Lastly, these thoughts are shared with the larger group. As a variation of this students could present each other’s ideas to the group of students or could combine their ideas into a unified answer.
  • Mind mapping: For this exercise paper or black/white board is needed as well as markers. A question or topic is written in the middle of paper or board. Students working individually or on teams, write comments, ideas, or responses that are linked to the main topic. Additional comments build on these or start new threads. Responses can be linked with other related ones and new ideas added on from others or from original. Mind mapping creates a visual record of a discussion that includes the links made between ideas.
  • Fish bowl: One group of students sits in a small circle discussing a topic. An outer ring of students observes [without any discussion] the interactions of the group in the centre. This is a useful technique for observing group behaviour.
  • Circle of voices: Students (in groups of four or five) take turns speaking for 1-3 minutes on an assigned topic. While each student speaks, no interruptions, questions or comments are allowed. After each group member has spoken, open the floor for general discussion but do not allow any new ideas to be introduced. The purpose of this technique is to encourage active listening and to focus the discussion.
  • Jigsaw: Groups are assigned a multi-faceted problem. Each member of the group then selects or is assigned a particular aspect of the problem on which to focus. Next, students move into expert groups that consist of students who are responsible for mastering the same material. In these expert groups, the students ensure that they understand their portion of the material and also know how they will teach it to their original group members. Students then regroup into their original groups, and each student teaches his or her material to the others. Individual mastery of the entire topic can be evaluated through quizzes.
  • Questions/discussion: Students present ideas in the form of a question [but avoid “Don’t you think, xyz is true?” questions]. Nobody makes any statement or comment of fact. This is a tricky one to get used to but can be extremely effective in drawing out shy students or making the routine discussion group more fun.
  • Summary: Rather than you summing up the discussion, get the class involved! Have students take turns providing the summary and connections for the discussion. You can also get student summaries from the whole class by asking questions that encourage a summary of the material, probing students to make connections, or simply by having each student state the most important point they made to the discussion in five seconds or less.

Lifecycle of a Discussion Group

Regardless of the topic or subject matter, think of all discussion groups as having a lifecycle with five distinct stages. Generally, each stage builds on the previous and requires a slightly different approach (suggested timing is based on a standard 50 min time slot).

What’s happening? How to facilitate Suggested timing
Setting the stage Students have arrived “cold.” It’s time to grab their attention and spark their interest in the planned discussion. Open with an introduction. Why is topic important or interesting? For example, relate topic to current news (if possible). Make connections with previous discussions and lectures. Set boundaries and limits for discussion. 3-5 minutes
Making the transition Students understand the agenda for the discussion and begin to think about it. Your challenge is to support the transition to a discussion. Warm-up questions allow for an easier transition to full discussion. Take a poll, ask for a show of hands, or start a quick debate on a preliminary or lead-in issue. Have some fun! Aim to get everyone to say or do something. 10-15 minutes [shorter as the course progresses and student experience increases].
Discussion Students engage in the discussion. Their attention is focused on the topic and they are talking about the topic. Plan effective questions in advance. Allow for spontaneous questions to emerge. Use a variety of facilitation techniques to help structure discussion. Always allow enough time at the end to bring discussion to a conclusion. 30-40 minutes
Bringing closure Students are still engaged in active discussion and it is time to bring class to a close. Students typically have questions, comments or reflections after the discussion ends. Sum up the discussion. Make connections explicit. Ask for last questions or comments. Introduce next week’s topic and assign any pre-class work. Be available to comment on follow-up discussions. Have a follow-up forum on cuLearn for continued discussions. Encourage students to continue discussions with each other outside class time. 5-8 minutes

Effective Discussion Questions

Effective questions are the key to an effective discussion. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation questions generally lend themselves to more in-depth discussion of the topic. However, starting with a few knowledge-type questions is an excellent way to get students warmed  up. Then progressing through comprehension and application questions will ensure that they understand the topic before you get to the in-depth discussion.

Preparing questions of each type before class will ensure a smooth transition in the discussion. Also, being able to identify the sorts of questions students are asking can help you gauge their level of understanding.

Types of questions

Type of question Explanation Example
Knowledge Simple questions that test for content knowledge of subject matter What is the purpose of the mitochondria?
Who, what, where, how…?
Comprehension Explain, interpret, give examples, summarize concepts in own words What was the contribution of…?
Application Requires application of knowledge (use of rules, facts, principles) How is…an example of? How is…related to…?
Why is…significant?
Analysis Requires application of principles in new settings Compare and contrast…with…?
What are the parts or features of…?
What evidence do you have for…?
Synthesis Requires combining ideas How would you design..?.
How would you suggest…?
What might happen if you combine X with Y?
Evaluation Requires making a judgement Do you agree with…?
What criteria would you use to assess…?
What is the most important…?
What do you think about…?

Common non-questions to avoid

We may all catch ourselves asking these sorts of questions from time to time but they should be avoided as much as possible. Below is a list of the typical non-questions and some discussion on why they are not effective questions as well as tips on how to avoid them.

Non-question Example Discussion and tips
Overly general opening question So, what do you guys think about democracy? This question is too general and it requires students to transition instantly to a discussion environment without any introduction or warm up.
Filler-questions Do you have any questions? Did you understand? You already know all this, don’t you? Shall I repeat this? Usually gets no response because no one will want to admit to not understanding the material or “look stupid” in front of the class.
Unanswerable questions Do you still believe in Santa Claus? The double jeopardy question. Answering no means that you used to believe in Santa Claus even if you never did.
Fuzzy questions Why is parliament set up that way? What should Thompson have done in that case? Overly general and not clear what is being asked. Try to focus questions on a main issue or single topic.
Asking and answering questions Who won the last federal election? It was Stephen Harper with a minority government, wasn’t it? Ask one question and avoid giving the answer. Wait at least five seconds before saying anything more. If necessary, repeat or rephrase the first question to encourage response.
Yes or no questions or one-word answer questions Did Alexander Graham Bell invent the telephone? In what year did Canada patriate the constitution? Of limited use in keeping discussions going but can be OK in some situations as a prelude to other questions or at the beginning of class.
Run-on questions How did Wayne Gretzky become the premier hockey player in the NHL, did he win any awards, what sort of a coach is he? Too many parts in one question and it changes direction at the end. Ask one question at a time.

Suggested references for further reading on asking effective questions include:

  • Brualdi, Amy C. (1998). Classroom questions. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 6(6).
  • Morgan, N., and Saxton, J. (1991). Teaching, Questioning, and Learning. New York: Routledge.

Out-of-the-Ordinary Classroom Situations

You may occasionally find yourself in a situation where you are not sure what to do or who to contact. The following information can assist and inform your response and actions in these situations.

If… Do this…

…the classroom door is locked

Weekday: Call Maintenance Control Centre at 613-520-3668

Evening: Call Safety at 613-520-3612

…the previous class has gone overtime

Politely let your presence be known and then wait a few minutes before sending in students.

…a student is posing a threat in class

Dismiss class and evacuate. Call Safety Patrol Services at 613-520-4444.

…the technical equipment fails

Call IMS at 613-520-3815, Monday-Thursday from 8 AM to 10 PM, Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Always be prepared to teach without the aid of technical equipment!

…a student is being disruptive in class

Moderate the situation as much as possible so that it is safe for you and your students.

…a student is being disruptive in class and all attempts have failed

You can ask a student to leave class, but you cannot force them to leave.

You can dismiss class.

You can call Safety Patrol Services at 613-520-4444. As sworn peace officers, they are trained in interpersonal dispute resolution.

…a student, or you, faces a medical emergency

Call Safety Patrol Services at 613-520-4444 to arrange for an ambulance and/or to administer first aid.

…you want to organize a field trip

Check first with your departmental administrator and chair/director.

…you must cancel class

Planned absence

  • Inform your departmental administrator and chair/director
  • Inform students ahead of time (in class or on cuLearn)
  • Arrange for a substitute instructor or activity. If this is not possible, try to schedule an alternate meeting time (this may not be possible for a first or second year course)

Short-notice cancellation

  • Notify your departmental administrator
  • If after hours, call Safety at 613-520-3612 and ask them to notify students in class
  • If time permits, notify students by email

Emergency Procedures

The Department of University Safety provides health and safety services to the Carleton community. The department is comprised of three service sections: Patrol Services, Parking Services and Technical Services. For non-emergency situations, please contact them at 613-520-3612.

University Safety provides a set of instructions on what to do in different emergency situations, such as bomb threats, chemical spills, suspicious packages and armed intruders.

Building evacuation procedures are provided on the Environmental Health and Safety website. You can also find a full list of all health and safety procedures here.

Patrol Services

Patrol Services is the uniformed unit of the Department of University Safety.  A number of these officers have been sworn as Peace Officers by the Ottawa Police Service and designated Special Constables to provide a limited law enforcement role on campus.

Patrol Service Emergency Response

  • Response to crimes in progress and reporting crime to local law enforcement
  • Coordination of emergency service response for police, fire and ambulance
  • Reporting and response to maintenance emergencies, such as burst pipes
  • Response to fire alarms, chemical spills, medical and other emergencies
  • Provide First Aid and Automated External Defibulators (AED) as required
  • Monitoring and response to intrusion alarm
  • Intervention, investigation and resolution of interpersonal disputes
  • Maintain the peace in support of the academic mission

Patrol Service Routine Functions

  • Response to requests for assistance such as battery boosts and door openings
  • Enforcement of university regulations, municipal, provincial and federal laws
  • Patrol of campus grounds and buildings on foot, in vehicles and on bicycles
  • Locking and unlocking of building entrances, classrooms, labs and offices
  • Monitoring and reporting of health and safety concerns to Environmental Health & Safety
  • Regular checks of lighting, emergency phones and fire equipment
  • Provide information on community safety programs and services
  • Control of vehicle and pedestrian traffic when required
  • Advice and reference to other campus services
  • Liaise with local law enforcement agencies
  • Enforcement of parking regulations

Emergency Procedures – Remain calm and dial 4444

To report an emergency, call University Safety (Communication Control Centre) to coordinate Police/Fire/Ambulance response.

To report an emergency, use:

  • Red Telephones – Located in building lobbies, corridors, computer labs, elevators and parking garages.
  • Blue Light – Exterior emergency telephones – Located outside on the campus grounds, parking garages and the tunnel system.
  • Bell Canada – Pay Telephones – Located across campus – dial 613-520-4444. This is a free call from any campus pay telephone.
  • Cell Phone – Call 613-520-4444 on your cell phone to report an emergency.
  • Carleton Office Telephones – Dial 4444.

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