Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bigger Can Be Fine

This class size post isn't about college education, but as a mostly unrelated point I will say that as someone who taught both at big schools with big auditorium classes (250 students) and smaller classes, depending on the subject matter large classroom sizes can be perfectly fine. Some learning requires a greater degree of discussion and interaction (and having TA sections can provide this), and probably some types of students benefit more from that type of learning, but some subjects can be taught perfectly well to large classes.

To relate it a bit more to the linked post, in small liberal arts colleges where small class size is part of what they're selling at a premium to students, there can be an odd tension. Obviously those colleges also face resource constraints, so there's pressure for class sizes to be larger, but smaller class sizes can improve their statistics for the stupid college ranking systems. I've seen friends at such institutions deal with "3 students are to few but 8 are too many" issues with their courses.