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Student Centred and Active Learning Approaches in Large Group Teaching - Trip to Thapar University September 2017

Thapar Session Sep 2017

Click on the photo above to play video.

“This session was held during the ongoing ‘New Directions in teaching & learning’ programme at Thapar University in September 2017. Academic staff at Thapar University had requested that I carry out a large group teaching session with undergraduate students that could be filmed and made available to them. The idea was to explicitly model and provide examples of various active learning and student centred learning approaches that can be used in large class teaching. 

Given my scientific background in eye development and disease research I thought that a ‘master class’ for biotechnology students in this area would be of interest to them. Over 200 students attended the class from all years of the undergraduate Biotechnology programme as well as Master’s students. I was confident that I could engage such a large class of students and used a number of different approaches encouraging think, pair, share to answer questions (including the use of a ‘nerf’ ball thrown  around the lecture theatre), the use of a gapped handout so students could add their own notes and some short quiz questions on the content. The students submitted their answers to Mentimeter and a word cloud was generated that we then discussed. I also showed a YouTube video of cataract surgery and we had a short discussion about cataract t surgery in India, based on a paper that the students had read prior to coming to the class. 

At the end, I gave the students an opportunity to submit a ‘minute paper’ asking them what were the two most interesting things they had learned in the class, something that they found confusing or still didn’t understand and what they enjoyed / did not enjoy about the teaching approaches used. The students were positive about the session and the use of the 'nerf ball' in the class when asking (and answering) questions. Students also enjoyed the cataract video. A number of students said that the pace was a bit fast and they would have liked to have had more time to explore some of the topics further and in greater depth. I agree with this – I wanted to cover several different areas and to maximise the variety of teaching and learning approaches used in the class. Students also enjoyed the quiz saying that it helped them focus on the material and also the use of Mentimeter to create the word cloud. There were also positive comments about the gapped handout.

I personally found the session very enjoyable and rewarding. There were some technical hitches that I had to solve ‘on my feet’ i.e. Wi-Fi access for the word cloud, but it all went very well. The students were attentive, interested in the material and open to engaging in the various activities I incorporated into the teaching.”

Prof Michael Wride


Stage one of Academic Professional Development programme for Thapar University: New Directions in Teaching & Learning

Group Photo Thapar University

Trinity College Dublin and Thapar University announced an institutional partnership in 2015. The partnership promotes academic collaboration in key areas of undergraduate programmes and research. The The collaboration is a central component of a major contemporisation programme that Thapar University is undertaking.

Thapar University CampusThapar University CampusThapar University ClassroomThapar University Group

In May 2015 CAPSL carried out an extensive needs analysis at Thapar University that specifically focused on the developmental needs of staff in teaching and learning, and which informed a bespoke programme of development for Thapar University staff, designed and delivered by CAPSL. As part of this programme CAPSL is delivering the New Directions programme to all members of Thapar University Academic Staff. This programme provides a foundation-level exposure to university teaching and learning. Academic staff at all levels and from numerous different Departments including engineering, computer science, mathematics, biotechnology and management are taking part in the programme.


Ninety five staff participants have now successfully completed the programme, which included workshops, the implementation of communities of practice and appropriate assessments disseminated throughout the College community, including group posters and a showcase event upon completion of the programme in January 2017.

CAPSL is currently engaged in a second round of the New Directions programme with a new group of 100 Thapar University staff, while continuing to engage the first group of participants in sustainable change in their own practice and encouraging their contribution to the development of the new group of participants.

The New Directions programme encouraged me to reflect on how I can engage my students more in active learning by being more creative in teaching and in how students should be encouraged to construct their own learning.

The New Direction programme has encouraged me to reflect on the ways to increase student participation in teaching and learning.

The New Directions Programme encouraged me to apply small-group strategies in large classes, which has given me a fresh insight about [my] teaching practice and the student centred learning (SCL) paradigm.

CAPSL is continuing to work with Thapar University to develop the second stage of this programme where graduates of the New Directions programme will undertake the Special Professional Certificate in Academic Practice.


Dr Ciara O’Farrell (CAPSL); Dr Mike Wride (CAPSL); Dr Michelle Share (School of Education) and Dr Aonghus McNabola (School of Engineering, TCD) are all contributing to this project.