Large Class SizeExpand
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.
Teaching Large ClassesExpand
In the world of education today, there is definitely a large need for more teachers. Because of this need, many classes are forced to include larger numbers of students than what can be effectively taught in a typical classroom setting. There are several things that can be done to deal with larger classes; keep in mind that more than 20 students can be considered a large foreign language class, and this is a very common class size.
The very first suggestion to teachers who have been assigned to large classes is to divide the class into smaller, more workable groups or teams. I would recommend first imagining that the classroom is a grid with four sections, one in each corner (more if necessary); students who are to be in each group should be sat accordingly. Though the chairs would probably have to be placed in rows because of the large class size, groups should not be divided by rows, but rather by the grid section. This makes it easier for the students to move their desks into small circles while working in their small groups. If the class has students at various levels of knowledge, remember to pair weak ones with strong ones (unless you are going to spend a lot of time with the weaker group, and have the stronger group bored and waiting). The “Engage” part of the lesson should include the entire class, and it is for this that the chairs should remain in rows. When the Engage part is over, students should then divide into their smaller groups to work on the Study and Activate stages. Doing the Engage part of the lesson as an entire class allows all of the students to get equal lecture time, while working in smaller groups for the Study and Activate sections allows the students more individual participation time.
During the Study and Activate stages, the teacher should always be present and available, but should not interfere too much with the group’s interaction and aid with each other. Study time should focus on the new information and should allow the student to practice and ingest the new information. I would recommend worksheets and writing activities for the Study stage. Students should study alone or in pairs, and should then come together with their group or team for the Activate Stage.
Activities such as games, plays, art, questionnaires, etc. should be used during the Activate stage. This activate stage is really the time in which the advanced students will pull the slower ones up to their level. This is almost inevitable if they are working together side by side. Naturally, advanced students will become the leaders and will help the other students with their work, will answer questions, and will generally benefit the other students, while at the same time benefiting, because they will be processing the information in a different manner, if they are teaching it rather than just hearing it.
I have worked with a couple of larger classes; I taught high school Spanish for a year before deciding to do EFL, and American high schools definately have over crowded classes. I followed the suggestions that I have shared in this essay, and things went very smoothly and worked amazingly.
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