Background: Effective lectures often incorporate activities that encourage learner participation. A challenge for educators is how to facilitate this in the large group lecture setting. This study investigates the individual student characteristics involved in encouraging (or dissuading) learners to interact, ask questions, and make comments in class. Methods: Students enrolled in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, St Kitts, were invited to complete a questionnaire canvassing their participation in the large group classroom. Data from the questionnaire were ana-lyzed using Excel (Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) and the R software environment (http://www.r-project.org/). Results: One hundred and ninety-two students completed the questionnaire (response rate, 85.7%). The results showed statistically significant differences between male and female students when asked to self-report their level of participation (P=0.011) and their confidence to participate (P<0.001) in class. No statistically significant difference was identified between different age groups of students (P=0.594). Student responses reflected that an “aversion to public speak-ing” acted as the main deterrent to participating during a lecture. Female participants were 3.56 times more likely to report a fear of public speaking than male participants (odds ratio 3.56, 95% confidence interval 1.28–12.33, P=0.01). Students also reported “smaller sizes of class and small group activities” and “other students participating” as factors that made it easier for them to participate during a lecture. Conclusion: In this study, sex likely played a role in learner participation in the large group veterinary classroom. Male students were more likely to participate in class and reported feeling more confident to participate than female students. Female students in this study commonly identified aversion to public speaking as a factor which held them back from participating in the large group lecture setting. These are important findings for veterinary and medical educators aiming to improve learner participation in the classroom. Potential ways of addressing this challenge include addition of small group activities and audience response systems during lectures, and inclusion of training interventions in public speaking at an early stage of veterinary and medical curricula.
- Class size
- Public speaking