Talk:Essay:Advantages of Large Classes

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I had large and small classes in both high school and college. I much preferred the small classes (less than 25 or so); I learned better, I made better friends and I had a much closer relationship with the teacher.

For four years I went to a very small school. At its biggest point there were 80 something kids from K-12! My average class size was anywhere from 4-16. This has its own disadvantages though: team sports were non-existent, the band and choir program were lacking, and if cliques arose they would be much more devastating. But that's just my experience.HelpJazz 12:08, 18 October 2008 (EDT)

Your second paragraph identifies why large classes have key advantages. Your first paragraph merely repeats the misperception. You didn't have large classes in high school, and you don't know if you really learned better in the smaller classes. The large classes inevitably have better competition, more insights, and better socializing.--Aschlafly 12:22, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
I did have large classes in high school, and in college, and for that matter, elementary school. The first time I had a class with fewer than 30 students was probably the 6th grade. I'm not saying that small classes are always better, just that, for me, they were. I'm also agreeing with you that small schools do have problems, which is part of the reason that I moved back to a larger school in the 10th grade. HelpJazz 12:45, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
I think that both have advantages and disadvantages. Different subjects also are probably better taught in different ways, as well. A big group discussion about history can be great. Some topics, though, like calculus, I think benefit from a small student to teacher ratio because of the mental leap involved in understanding it. Corry 13:01, 18 October 2008 (EDT)

In high school we had groups of about 40 students and it was difficult to get the teacher to explain something individually. I never heard much in the way of great insight from a high school student, there is often a lack of life experiance to draw from for that. If 6 or more students need to be expelled from a class for the day for discipline then in my opinion the teacher is a miserable failure since maintaining control is a core element of teaching. I do agree that in recent years the class sizes have become so small that one wonders at the justification for it since test scores do not reflect an improvement. In the college I attended the lectures were often 50 - 150 students and the lecturer asked no questions and did not allow student questions. You had to consult a tutor for any additional help. It worked well because the pattern was , lecture, tutorial , practicle session. the practice session was where we worked through a set of questions and had the lecturer or tutor available to explain. Markr 13:06, 18 October 2008 (EDT)

Socially, a large party is usually better than a small party, all else being equal. There are more people to meet and interact with. The social dynamics of the classroom are no different. A small class means seeing and hearing from the same handful of people over and over. Tedium and depression set in quickly.
If you've never learned anything from a high school student, then you're missing the boat entirely. Most of mankind's greatest works, writings, insights, discoveries, proofs, etc., were by teenagers. The larger your class, the greater the chance of something special coming from the students, all else being equal.--Aschlafly 13:59, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
Mankind's greatest works were done by teenagers? That seems like a slight exaggeration. Can you give some examples? BenR 15:22, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
I think the party thing is a matter of opinion. I'm pretty introverted, so I absolutely hate large parties and prefer small, intimate parties. Additionally, in a large classroom, even though there's a higher chance of there being someone there who can teach me something, I'm much less likely to actually talk to anyone. I can spend all day with 4 or 5 good friends (and in fact regularly do so), but after 2 hours of a large group I have to go home and "discharge". On the other hand, I do know people who get bored in small groups and have no problem chatting up the student sitting next to them in a large lecture. HelpJazz 14:05, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
(moved from above to its intended place) HelpJazz, I appreciate your candid comments, but note how they illustrate my point. This issue is not a matter of what one "likes", but what is good for him. Our society is becoming more introverted, and sociologists say it is not healthy. I'm sure many students do prefer a small class and perhaps even smaller parties. Obviously many prefer to watch TV all by themselves. But that is not what is "advantageous".--Aschlafly 14:25, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
My experience is that in larger classes it's easier for people to sit in the back and not participate. A smaller class doesn't give that opportunity. I'm in a program right now that has both large lectures and small groups. I tend to learn the material better in the small group sessions, as it's easier for the instructor to take time and go over a complicated topic in detail and work on individual comprehension problems with the students. The students are better prepared for the small groups than the large lectures, and for some classes the students take turns actually leading the small groups, with the instructor acting more as a facilitator. This seems to me to be a pretty good way to teach students to be self-reliant in their education. Corry 15:36, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
I think the subject is very important. My majors were all hard science subjects (physics, chemistry, mathmatics) which are not that conducive to insights, but more about not experimenting and blow up the lab. Perhaps in History, English and such the students input would be more relevent even if steered by the teacher Markr 15:46, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
My first school had class sizes of forty-plus, and was a deeply religious establishment where classroom prayer was the norm. I worked hard in such a supportive and inspirational environment, and am on course for achieving a doctorate within 2-3 years. Coincidence? Bugler 18:10, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
More than a coincidence, obviously. Students in big classes learn to be competitive, to speak in front of large groups, and to gain insights from others. Small groups are less challenging and less educational, and students benefit less from them. Simple statistics dictate that students are going to make fewer friends and hear fewer insights from classmates. Maybe liberals like smaller classes (in addition to the political benefit to the Left of more teachers for the unions) because the students' minds become easier to control and mislead in smaller groups. Try teaching liberal propaganda to a large class and watch the students start to question it.--Aschlafly 18:24, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
I really don't think this is a liberal/conservative issue, and I don't think that it's just liberals that prefer smaller classes. I find small group learning to be more challenging because in the time allotted I am much more likely to be asked a question. As far as speaking in front of large groups, I've known people that will talk in a small group but never even consider asking a question in a large lecture. Also, small groups can put people in proximity that normally aren't. Most people in a large lecture hall (assuming they don't know most of the people there) will sit by the same people they know all the time. I have always met more people in small groups than in large lectures. And regarding insights, simple mathematics dictate that with a larger student to teacher ratio, each student has less time per class to ask questions and present insights. A small group environment allows more time for exchange between students and faculty, which is much more likely to foster an epiphany than listening to a lecture. Furthermore, a smaller class allows a teacher to see more student insight by having the time to assign and grade essays as opposed to multiple choice questions. Corry 20:10, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
Liberals obviously do prefer smaller classes, as demonstrated by the overwhelmingly liberal teachers' unions. The mind-control is better with smaller classes. Liberals don't want to hear any independent insights from young people. Judging by a comment above, liberals don't even think such insights exist!--Aschlafly 20:03, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
Do you think that only teachers' unions think that small classes are better than large classes? Corry 20:11, 18 October 2008 (EDT)
Teachers' unions influence many others, starting with the millions of parents and students in their schools, not to mention the newspapers which print the union demands uncritically.--Aschlafly 20:17, 18 October 2008 (EDT)

I'm sorry, I'm a bit confused and hoping you can clarify a few things for me.

  1. You stress the importance of discussion and hearing from students, and I agree. However, on Conservapedia, you disparage discussion, and sometimes ban people for too much of it, even in important topics such as this one.
  2. Do larger classes necessarily mean you hear more discussion from more students? In my own experience in college, we had the most and the best discussions in smaller classes (10-15, or even fewer). I only ever took one really large class (more than 100 students) and it had none of the advantages you describe. It was all lecture from the professor, there was no discussion, no competition (I had no idea what grades other students were getting, and only cared what grade I got), no social development (I didn't know anyone in the class when I started, and knew no one when I left), and the exams were essays graded by a TA. Do you think the advantages that come with class size have an upward limit, above which they start to no longer be applicable? Or would a class of 200 or 2000 still be better than a class of 15?
  3. If large class sizes are always better, then wouldn't that mean a parent staying home and teaching his or her child is a poor method of teaching, as that is a class size of one, the smallest class size possible? (I realize this is by no means the only method of homeschooling, but it is certainly not an uncommon one.)
  4. I still would like to hear your thoughts on teenagers being responsible for mankind's greatest achievements. While undoubtedly teenagers have made great accomplishments on occasion, I can think of none that I would rank among the greatest. Was this a slight exaggeration?

Thank you. BenR 11:35, 19 October 2008 (EDT)

  1. I ban too much discussion in class also. Learning is not talk, talk, talk.
  2. Competition and socializing do scale with class size. It's unfortunate you did not take advantage of the greater opportunities. Some do.
  3. I said large class size is better, all things being equal. Homeschooling gets rid of the liberal junk, and that is a huge difference and benefit.
  4. Look harder. Try Godel, great works of literature, and the Gospel of John, for starters.--Aschlafly 23:25, 19 October 2008 (EDT)
You discuss the idea of student insights increasing with scale. Don't you think that insights are more likely to come from student-teacher interaction than from listening to a lecture and asking or answering the occasional question? The lower the student/teacher ratio is, the more time there is for such interaction. I have personally had the "light bulb" turn on much more from back and forth with a professor in a smaller setting than from sitting in a lecture. Corry 23:47, 19 October 2008 (EDT)


Thank you for your reply. I'll try to be more concise with my follow ups.
  1. Your reply seems to contradict some of what you said about the more insights the better, but I suppose there is a limit to this, which addresses part of my second question.
  2. In the class in question there was little I could have done differently. There was no discussion element of the class. I sat randomly next to different people each week, and since I couldn't socialize during the lecture, I would have had to do so during non-class time. Most of your examples would not have applied no matter what approach I took. (Luckily I had plenty of friends in college, who I met in smaller classes and in dormatory environments, so I didn't mind not making other friends in this one class).
  3. While that may well be true, you seem to admit that a person educated at home is missing out on many advantages you illustrated in this essay. In a non-political class such as trigonometry, would you say larger is better, or is homsechooling still the way to go?
  4. It looks like Godel did most of his major work in his 20s and later. John may have been a teen (or he may not have), but that is one book out of the entire Bible. Off the top of my head I can think of no truly great works of literature written by teenagers, can you be more specific? Even assuming you can name some, was "most" really the right word to use?
Thanks again. BenR 23:58, 19 October 2008 (EDT)
BenR, your account has been blocked for a day for doing nothing but talk here. We're building an encyclopedia to learn, and not engage in idle chatter.
In response to your comments above, particularly points 2 and 4, I again recommend that you try harder. I have 50 students who are trying harder and it doesn't make sense for me to waste more time on those who don't. Do yourself a favor, and do those around you a favor in the process. Godspeed.--Aschlafly 18:50, 20 October 2008 (EDT)

typo

"...are so indoctrinated about the push for smaller class size that they will insist on it for homeschooling classes" missing word is in bold. Human 17:50, 18 October 2008 (EDT)

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