Author: Frank Heppner
Publisher: Jossey-Bass, an Imprint of Wiley
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

When the first edition of this book was published in 2007, the author Frank Heppner had already logged 38 years of experience teaching large college classes. He had completed more than 40 years of work as a professor when he retired in 2010.

What are large college classes? Typically they are introductory courses with around 1,000 students or so conducted in auditoriums or lecture halls that most freshmen have to take before they get into courses relating to their major.

Frank Heppner writes that in graduate school, the thought of teaching a large college class was like “cancer” or a “horrible automobile accident with body parts strewn over the highway.” He thought this happens to others and not something that would happen to him.

But it did, and he has certainly learned a lot about teaching large classes, as this book reveals. He writes that teaching large classes was rarely the focus of any book, until his own book – Teaching the Large College Class – was published. What you are reading is a product of mostly experience – his trial by fire, so to speak.

Frank Heppner received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California in Berkeley and his PhD from the same university in Davis, followed by two years of post doctorate work at the University of Washington.

He has been a professor at the University of Rhode Island since 1969, and has had sabbaticals in New Mexico as well as in Southeast Asia – in Brunei and the Philippines.

With economic pressures over the last few decades, more large classes have become the norm. The good news is that this book provides you the author’s insight and practical knowledge to handle large classes well, instead of breaking down and trying to get out of your assignment.

At the outset, in order to get into the right frame of mind, you need to realize, as Heppner emphasizes, that teaching large classes is more of an art and a craft, not a science.

He points out that many new teachers of large college classes typically want to quit after some time struggling to cope with the challenge thrust upon them. Others, like Heppner, stick around and try to figure out what to do to make their job easier, and even “fun.”

Fortunately, instead of trying to figure out the right way to handle your job as a teacher of a large class, you now have the benefit of someone else’s ‘school-of-hard-knocks’ experience to help you. “I’ve made every horrendous teaching error you can make,” he writes. So dig into this book and learn from this pro.

This book of less than 200 pages lays out a plan for what you need to do when you begin to handle a large college class and how to do it. It contains information on various aspects of your job, including:

  • Thinking ahead
  • Getting ready for the first day
  • The teacher as actor
  • Managing assistants and graders
  • Using media effectively
  • Auditorium class activities
  • Assessment and testing
  • Grading
  • The seasons of a class

A list of books and the author’s ‘personal list’ of movies have been provided for you at the end of the book to gain further knowledge and insight.

The book also contains useful items in the Appendix: a sample course outline, a first-day checklist, a sample course syllabus, and a sample first-day lecture.