How do large classes affect the quality of education?

Expert Answers
dmcgillem eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Large class enrollments can be daunting for a teacher.  There is only so much time in a class period or a school day, and trying to present new material, reinforce and remediate other material, follow IEP accommodations for one to several special education students, and make accommodations at the other end for high ability students can be overwhelming.  In any classroom, regardless of size, there is a broad range of student abilities, but a large enrollment just increases that range, thus increasing the amount of work the teacher must do to try to teach everyone at challenge-level.

Large classes can also be daunting for a student.  Questions may go unasked because the sheer size of the group is intimidating.  Questions asked may go unanswered because the teacher just doesn't have the time in class to devote to a mini-tutorial session.

Discipline and classroom management become even more critical the larger the group, and if a teacher isn't able to effectively manage the mass of students in his or her care, chaos will ensue.

Resources are limited already, and the larger the enrollment, the more those limitations are felt.  Even in schools with updated computer labs, classes can often reach a size that surpasses the number of computers available at any given time.

On the other hand, there can be positive aspects to larger enrollments.  The larger the class, the more opportunities there are to expose students to opinions and beliefs that differ from there own.  Discussions can be rich with a variety of student backgrounds represented.

When it comes to group work like literature circle discussions, larger enrollments can help ensure that there won't be any groups side-lined because of an absent member or two because there will be ample students to fill in.


kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is always a hot debate about the effect of class size on achievement and other aspects of education.  Some studies show that small classes can be very helpful in terms of helping to increase test scores and other measures of achievement but other studies have shown the opposite or at least that they have no significant effect.

As a teacher there are many practical things that come up when class sizes increase.  It becomes increasingly difficult to give individual feedback and keep track of each student's progress once the numbers start to increase.  Classroom dynamics change as well with more students to manage and keep track of and it can require different strategies and activities in order to manage the larger numbers.

Grading also takes significantly more time and all of those can detract from time that might have been spent planning or working with students individually so that also has an effect.

epmazariegos | Student

A lot depends on the students as well, if they are willing to be there.  But the main problem is that a large number of those students will not take away any learning, so as the others have mentioned many different techniques must be used.

The other factor to take into consideration is the level of knowledge, this will also influence the activities you use.

hari12 | Student

Large lecture halls impose physical and logistical constraints on what you can do effectively. But there are tried and true techniques to keep students interested:

-      Interactive Lecture : Interactive lectures are lectures interspersed with brief in-class activities that require students to use the information or concepts presented in the lecture. In Just-in-Time Teaching, students respond electronically to web-based assignments, due a few hours before class. The instructor then briefly reviews student responses to see what to focus on during the class period.

As technology becomes more complex, it becomes more daunting. But it can also be quite helpful. Here are some examples of time-saving, effort-saving technologies proven to be effective in teaching, especially in assessment.

Many students, particularly high-achievers, resist group work. Yet the ability to work well in a group is an essential skill for most college graduates. In addition, students who learn in collaborative settings both learn and retain 1.5 times as much as students who learn individually.



just-s | Student

teachers focus on those who are interested and have no time to motivate each learner to pay attention!

learners tend to get less attentive in class and play fools during class hours.

teachers have time to only explain to the whole class and will not have time to give individual attention to each learner.

learners productivity goes down...