Proposal Title

How can we make a large class feel like a small one?

Session Type

Presentation

Room

P&A Rm 148

Start Date

July 2015

Keywords

large classes, survey, administration, 100-year review, engagement

Primary Threads

Teaching and Learning Science

Abstract

Large classes have become standard at North American universities. Lecture halls with capacities for several hundred students were built to accommodate Ontario’s double-cohort, yet enrollments did not decline after they graduated. Administrators tout the cost-saving efficiencies of large classes however instructors find it challenging to engage students in higher order learning. In this study our main goal is to answer the question “Can we make a large class feel like a small one?” To answer this, we surveyed students and faculty in the College of Biological Science at the University of Guelph and performed a principal component analysis (PCA) on data about course structure and student outcomes. The survey showed that students and faculty agree that small classes generally have fewer than 40 students, and that the high end of a medium-sized class is approximately 200 students. There was disagreement, however on the maximum size of a large class, with instructors reporting higher overall class sizes compared to students (1000 versus 600 students). Results of our preliminary principal components analysis distinguished large classes from small classes by higher failure rates, apparent lower instructor availability, and a decreased number and variety of assessments. A few courses did not fit this classification, indicating that there are large classes that may mimic small classes. In a period of continually decreasing resources, including time, determining what can make a large class feel like a small class will give the instructor the best tools to make a difference in the large classroom.

Elements of Engagement

How well do you know your students? How well do you know your administrators? How well do you know the size of the courses in your Faculty? The two major elements of our research is the survey given to students, instructors and administrators asking for their experience and opinion on large and small classes, and an analysis of several properties (class size, number of teaching assistants, etc.) of large and small classes. During my presentation, I will use Western’s Turning Technologies virtual clicker to ask the audience to predict the answers and results in the hopes of challenging preconceived ideas, as a way to highlight our key results and to stimulate discussion.

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Jul 10th, 1:45 PM

How can we make a large class feel like a small one?

P&A Rm 148

Large classes have become standard at North American universities. Lecture halls with capacities for several hundred students were built to accommodate Ontario’s double-cohort, yet enrollments did not decline after they graduated. Administrators tout the cost-saving efficiencies of large classes however instructors find it challenging to engage students in higher order learning. In this study our main goal is to answer the question “Can we make a large class feel like a small one?” To answer this, we surveyed students and faculty in the College of Biological Science at the University of Guelph and performed a principal component analysis (PCA) on data about course structure and student outcomes. The survey showed that students and faculty agree that small classes generally have fewer than 40 students, and that the high end of a medium-sized class is approximately 200 students. There was disagreement, however on the maximum size of a large class, with instructors reporting higher overall class sizes compared to students (1000 versus 600 students). Results of our preliminary principal components analysis distinguished large classes from small classes by higher failure rates, apparent lower instructor availability, and a decreased number and variety of assessments. A few courses did not fit this classification, indicating that there are large classes that may mimic small classes. In a period of continually decreasing resources, including time, determining what can make a large class feel like a small class will give the instructor the best tools to make a difference in the large classroom.