Large Classes: Bigger is Better

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Published March 17, 2016
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The Montclarion
Niyani Lingham-Green | The Montclarion

There are students and teachers who argue that small classes are superior to larger classes, relying on the fact that smaller classes afford more intimacy between teachers and students. The smaller space encourages the teachers to get to know not only their students, but also their students’ learning abilities, allowing them to tailor their teaching methods to enhance their students’ performance.

In some instances, smaller classes are far more ideal than larger classes, such as when dealing with younger kids. However, just as many students and teachers would argue that larger classes are ideal.

Larger classes differ in many areas from smaller classes. To begin with, the caliber of the professors tends to be different due to the different levels of skill and experience required. What this means is that the level of education and the academic expectation for the students will be higher as well. Professors in larger classes need to be more experienced with teaching.
In both small and large classes, a good professor is tantamount to enhanced class performance, but because larger classes tend to require versatility and an expert ability to convey information, the professor tends to have higher capabilities. In a larger classroom, a professor must be able to convey each lesson so that every single student understands the material without extra help. Thus, large class professors cannot focus their teaching techniques to adhere to a select group of students, unlike those in a small classroom. Therefore, each professor in a larger class must have these basic qualities.

Whether the professor is good or not, most larger classes are graced with teaching assistants or TAs. One argument against larger classes is that it is more difficult to retain information, since students lack the intimacy of smaller classes. However, having TAs is a way to bridge that gap, so that instead of just one educator splitting themselves between 30-plus students, there are two educators. To make up for the lack of intimacy, professors and TAs have ample amounts of office hours and can be reached through email if there are any urgent questions.

Students are also encouraged to be more self-reliant in a larger class. Although being comfortable with the professor is important, the ability to think critically is one that should not be overlooked. TAs and professors are still human, and there are students who will not be able to speak to them during their office hours due to inidivdual time constraints. In order to keep up with class and the work load, students have to go home and work independently. This experience engenders students to rely on their own ability to reason and think rather than just lean on the professor, imbuing them with more confidence in themselves.

Larger classes, unlike smaller classes, offer students a perfect opportunity to network with students from other majors or with different mindsets as well. Though smaller classes encourage a closer relationship between students and teachers, larger classes supply a variety of students with different majors, mindsets and ambitions. In a larger class, a student can experience and hear the different views and ideas of a multitude of students and determine how to respond to these different views. Through these ideas, two students can connect and form lasting academic relationships.
Networking also requires students to work together among themselves, a necessary skill for the work force. Students are expected to take full control of their education, and a part of doing that is asking peers for help before they turn their attention to the teacher. This instills students with the confidence to communicate with each other.

Personally, I am more relaxed in larger classes. In smaller classes, I am under more pressure. I feel that, for students with anxiety or for those who are shy, larger classes provide a more calm and relaxing environment, in which where they are free from worry. There are students who prefer the anonymity that a sizable class offers. For students who are introverted or naturally shy, a large class allows them to relax into the mass of the classroom and not fall behind. They do not feel the panic that sets in for students who see their participation grade fall because they are unable or unwilling to speak in class.

In addition, since larger classes are more test-oriented than smaller classes, students can have an ample amount of time to prepare for them beforehand. Students who are better at taking tests than writing papers prefer larger, test-oriented classes.

A final feature of bigger classes that smaller classes do not share is the ready supply of seating. The large number of seats available minimizes stress that comes with trying to create a schedule for each semester, especially for freshmen and sophomores, who are usually the last to register.

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