Does class size matter?

Rachel Greene, Opinions Writer

Throughout various majors, minors and specializations, class sizes vary greatly. Personally, I have been in classes of seven people, 30 people and even 100 people. While all of these classes covered a range of different topics, one concern rang true to me through all of them: does class size matter?

Take a biology lab, for example. Usually students are placed into lab partners, or even groups to complete experiments or reports. Imagine this, but with a class of seven students. The setting is immediately more intimate, but does this small change really alter the productivity level of the group as a whole? Of course the environment is different, but is the learning at hand changed in any way, or at least any way that could be noticed? Because science is so unique in the way we learn it, let’s use a communication class as another example. Imagine you are sitting in an argumentation class. Picture you are with six other students. Now picture this same class, but with 30 students. Finally, picture this same class with 100 students. The environment is changing, but is the learning that is taking place the same?

In my opinion, the answer is no. I have always found that I learn better when I am an active participant in class. In my 100 person lectures, and even some of my 30 person classes, I often feel as if I am just an observer to the learning that could be taking place. Perhaps my classmates who are answering all the questions or taking part in demonstrations learn in these settings, but I learn differently when I am forced out of my comfort zone into participating. In classes as small as seven, 10 or even 15, I feel as if I am an important member of a group. If there are only a few voices, it feels much more important for mine to be heard. If my voice is heard and I am participating often, I feel like the content becomes more real to me, rather than just words on a page. Some students may be visual learners, some may be auditory, but I learn by doing.

Some people may say that what you get out of a class is what you put in, which sometimes is the truth, but in this situation it is not the only factor. Regardless of the effort a student puts into a class, the large class size can still make them feel like they are just observers. I cannot really prove that people in larger classes learn less, but my personal experiences indicate that my smaller classes really force me to focus, be actively involved in discussions and to form relationships with my peers.

On the whole, it is good that classes of various sizes are offered. For those students who learn best by listening and taking notes, lecture halls are wonderful. For students like myself, small, tight-knit classes are convenient and necessary for effective and worthwhile learning.