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Problems in large-group sessions:
‘WHAT CAN I DO WHEN...?’
Next, we’ll look at some of the most frequently occurring problems which lecturers experience. Some of these problems are the sorts of nightmares about lecturing which many new lecturers have before they actually start in post. In each case, I will suggest a few potential ways of getting around the problem - leaving you to take your pick of which would suit you best - or think of your own better solution.
What can I do when I’m feeling nervous?
You’re not alone! Even many very experienced lecturers are quite nervous, especially with a new group, or with a subject they don’t know particularly well. Some tactics which can help include...
• Smile! You’ll notice that at least some of the students will smile back - this immediately makes you feel better.
• Don’t imagine that everyone in the room will have their full attention on you for every second of the session! Student’s minds are full of many things other than your performance. Any gaffes you make may only be noticed by a few of the students there and will soon be forgotten.
• Have good prompts available. It’s reassuring to have (for example) a list or printout of your slides, so that you won’t be nervous about losing your place in the lecture.
• Ad-lib an explanation of the importance of a point you’ve just recently been making. Sometimes the very
fact that you’re making a spontaneous addition is relaxing in its own right. Bring in your students. For example, ask them a question along the lines “How many of you have already come across...?” or “How many of you have never yet heard of...?”
• Don’t be afraid to pause for a short while and take a deep (quiet) breath. Asking students to re ect on what you’ve been talking about for 30 seconds is refreshing for everyone.
What can I do when I forget where I am in my lecture?
This happens to most lecturers now and then, so don’t feel
that there’s something wrong with you if it happens to you. Your choices include:
• Give your students something to do for a couple of minutes. For example, have a slide already prepared for such an eventuality. Make the activity seem a perfectly natural step for your students, for example by saying “Now would be a really good time for you to discuss with someone beside you for
a minute or two about...” and then put up your task brie ng. While the students are doing the task, you’ve got time to sort out where you were, and get ready to resume your lecture after debrie ng students’ work on the short task.
• Minimise the chance of losing where you are by having a print-out of your slides, so that you can quite quickly see what you’ve done and what you were talking about and keep a pen handy to annotate them as you are going along.
• Ask students to jot down the two most important things they’ve learned so far from your lecture. Then ask them to compare with those sitting close to them. Then ask for volunteers to tell you what they chose. This often helps you to regain a feel for exactly what had been happening in their minds up to the point at which you lost your way.
• If you’re very con dent, you could say “oops, I’ve lost it! Anyone like to remind me what I was going to say next?” At least then, you’ll have the full attention of your students for a moment - and they normally respond well to you just being human.
WHAT CAN I DO WHEN I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO A STUDENT’S QUESTION?
A common nightmare - and a not-infrequent occurrence in practice! You’ll feel less concerned about this as you gain experience - but the following tactics can take away some of the worries you may have about this.
• Give yourself time to think. Repeat the question to everyone, as other students may not have heard the question. Sometimes this extra time is enough to give you a chance to think of how you may respond.
• Don’t try to make an answer up! If it turns out to be wrong, or if you get stuck in the process, you will soon have the full attention of all the students - not what you really want at this stage!
• Say “this is a really good question. How many of you can respond to this?” and look for volunteers. Quite often, there will be someone there who is willing answer it.
• Break it down into smaller bits. Then start by responding to one of the bits where you do have something to say. If it’s
a question that your students don’t actually need to know an answer to, say so. “Interesting, but not actually needed for this course” and so on.
• Don’t get  ustered. Just say “That’s a great question that I don’t have time to/can’t answer right now. I will post a response on Vision and get back to you next week” etc.
• Or you can invite the student who asked the question to jot it down on a Post-it Note, with their email address, so that you know exactly what the question was, and can respond to the questioner directly as soon as you’ve located an answer. But don’t forget to share the answer with the whole group at the next lecture or on Vision.
What can I do when students repeatedly come in late, and disrupt my lecture?
This can be annoying, but requires a certain balancing act. There will usually be some students who arrive late, but sometimes the problem becomes more signi cant in certain time-slots and at particular periods in a course. It is also worth bearing in mind that some students may have valid reasons for being late, for example students with disabilities may be late due to medical reasons, anxiety, not being able to get in the lifts etc.
• Don’t gradually get more and more annoyed - and above all, try not to look annoyed! The next student to arrive may have a very good reason for being late.
• Resist the temptation to be sarcastic (e.g. “How good of you to join us today”). Mostly, students who come in late don’t actually enjoy being late, and if they get a rough ride from you, next time they’re late they may well decide not to risk coming in at all.
• If the late-coming is noisy (loud doors, shoes on solid  oors, and so on), pause until it will be possible for everyone to hear you properly again. The students themselves will get tired of having to wait for latecomers, and will often show their own disapproval, but as you probably will not know the cause behind a student’s lateness you may wish to adopt a more non- judgemental attitude..
• If necessary, agree some ground rules with the whole group. For example, if quite a lot of the students have had to come from another session at the other end of the campus, negotiate to start promptly  ve minutes after the normal time.
• Should you encounter rude or disrespectful behaviour, don’t challenge an offender in front of peers - it’s better to chat quietly out of the class - there could be something major going on in the student’s life, and maybe the behaviour is a cry for help.
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