Everyone fears the first day of class. After seeing that the class enrollment has maxed out, you walk into your highly sought-after class and realize you’re all going to be squeezed in tighter than a pair of fake breasts in an undersized brassiere.
Everyone fears the first day of class. After seeing that the class enrollment has maxed out, you walk into your highly sought-after class and realize you’re all going to be squeezed in tighter than a pair of fake breasts in an undersized brassiere. With some students left sitting in the aisles and on the floor, any hopes you may have with getting some “one-on-one” help with your professor are soon shattered.
Currently, Portland State has over 25,000 students, and enrollment is planned to increase next year. Class sizes are only going to get bigger and bigger. So what kind of effect is all this growth going to have on the quality of our education?
According to online enrollment, one of the current General Biology 103 classes has a student enrollment of 183. The other Bio 103 class has 130 students and a variety of other introductory level classes have their enrollment numbers over the 200 mark. While many remember being packed 50 at a time into a classroom in high school, this appears to be a completely different kind of monster.
One strange phenomenon you can notice while scanning the registration page is that for some majors, the class sizes are significantly smaller, even in introductory classes. For example, the English Department has no classes that allow the enrollment of over 100 students. In fact, the largest class this term is Greek Mythology, with only 66 students currently enrolled.
Class size is definitely a variable depending on what kind of course you are taking. In a writing class for example, it is important for a professor to give feedback to students in a timely manner, and therefore size would definitely impact the learning experience. In other disciplines such as mathematics, there is more of an individual learning burden expected of a student, and therefore increased class size might not have the same effect.
Other factors may affect the amount of learning that is taking place, such as the amount of effort a student puts into the work, or the quality of the professor teaching the class. Many believe that not being able to work “one-on-one” with a professor could hinder student achievement. While professors are available to answer questions through e-mail, such inquiries can run the risk of getting lost in the spam folder.
For California’s universities, a solution to recent budget problems has been to increase the class sizes in college classrooms. One study conducted by University of California, Irvine revealed that some subjects did suffer from increased sizes while others remained relatively unaffected. As a whole, the study did conclude that the general effects of increased class sizes are negative.
Studies have been conducted on increased class sizes overseas as well. The University of Calabria in Italy conducted its own study and found that large class sizes decreased the grades students earned in class and simultaneously lowered the likelihood of students passing the class. Factors such as increased noise and lack of clarification opportunities were cited as additional reasons that excessively large learning environments are not successful.
“I came from ASU, so I haven’t really noticed a difference (in class size),” said student Shannon Ashford. “But, I feel that freshman and community college students who are used to getting that one-on-one time aren’t used to it. There are so many people, the professor doesn’t know your name or your face. So, if you want to learn the material, you have to show up. It’s much less about the professor’s accountability and more about you.”
Attempts to obtain professor comments on the matter yielded no results by deadline.
In the end, with enrollment expected to increase, students are going to have to find a way to maneuver through these massive classes. While some may feel that there is no major effect, many are going to be left without the valuable instructor time and feedback that they need in order to get a solid education. At this point, instead of standing out, they will be forced to blend into the fold. ?