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One key element: Teachers such as Stanford University engineering professor Sheri Sheppard. Named professor of the year, Sheppard says she's been perplexed about how to make the large lecture class personal. "What we've done is take the 100 student class and divide it into four pods," says Sheppard. "Each of those pods of 25 sit in the same area of the class and is 'owned' by one of the TAs." Sheppard says this makes students feel more like they're part of a team of students, which is more like the real world of engineering partnerships than is sitting alone in a large classroom.

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