Heterogeneity – in terms of prior knowledge and preparation – can be one of the biggest challenges when teaching a class. Strong heterogeneity means the tempo and complexity of a lecture will only ‘fit’ a small number of students. A lecture for the ‘middle’ group would leave behind students who are struggling to follow along, but also knowledgeable and well-prepared students who are frustrated by the slow tempo.
Below are some techniques that can help you deal with heterogeneity. The links bring you to the appropriate way to blend page.
Video / Flipping the classroom
You can use video to present (some of the) basic lecture content that consists of one-way knowledge transfer without interaction. Students can watch the videos before the lecture. During the lecture you can now focus on deepening students’ understanding because they are better prepared. For tips on incentives and more interactive lecture methods see the flipped classroom.
Another way to make sure students are better prepared is to ask them to complete formative tests before the lecture. These formative tests can even be adaptive, meaning that they take into account the individual level of student, but do steer towards a particular learning goal.
If heterogeneity is a common issue in an entire programme, it could be worthwhile to offer online remedial modules where students take an automatically graded diagnostic test. If they lack required knowledge, they are presented with instructional material (video or text) and practice quizzes on their deficient topics. You can offer these modules as part of the admission or selection process before a programme starts, or just-in-time before or during a course.