Findings in many of the past studies do indeed suggest that small- sized classes are indeed more effective that larger classes. The benefits of smaller classes are endless, but what about those instructors that have no choice in the matter? Many scholars have come up with strategies in order to help those that are presented with the larger class and want to make it a success. Along these lines, many feel that it isn?t always the size of the class, it is the quality. Students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have expressed their opinion that the instructor has more of an impact on the quality of the class than the size itself (oic.id.ucsb.edu/). And in order to make the classroom a quality learning environment, many individuals, including those at Penn State University, have suggested that one has to incorporate the elements of a smaller class.
These elements begin with first planning out the class effectively and actively preparing the given lesson. When the material is organized properly, there is a higher rate of success. Along these lines, creating a smaller class atmosphere is also important because it lessens the distance between the instructor and the students, as well as reduces the anonymity found in most large classes. In order to do this, a few suggestions might come in handy (Penn State ID Newsletter, 1992).
First, creating the smaller class atmosphere means learning the names of your students. This creates a personal relationship that increases student interest in the class. Through a seating chart or similar tool, the teacher shows an interest in the responses of each individual and therefore, increases effectiveness. Also important in this area is for the instructor to arrive early to class. This creates informal conversation which in turn leads to a personalized atmosphere. If needed, scholars also suggest using a microphone if teaching in a lecture hall or similar setting so there is no question of whether the students are getting the given information. Also suggested is to move around the room or hall so the students feel like they are involved in the lesson material, instead of merely being preached to (Penn State ID Newsletter, 1992). In addition to the previously mentioned techniques, creating the smaller class atmosphere is also achieved by frequently eliciting feedback about the course. This helps the instructor in planning out future lessons and will improve the quality of learning. The next suggestion is to encourage as much group work as possible. This creates an atmosphere where the students can speak in a comfortable manner and express a given opinion on the subject. Finally, scholars suggest that the use of visual aids is very effective as well as when the instructor shows an honest enthusiasm for the class and the material (Penn State ID Newsletter, 1992)
Even though small classes have proven more effective, the techniques and strategies employed in the classroom have more of an impact than the class size itself. Whether or not the instructor does the necessary work to make his/her class engaging and personal is whether or not the class succeeds on the whole.
Author: Dana Mattson
Date of post: 2006-07-19