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The Importance of Class Size

The Importance of Class Size

Learn more about the importance of class size.

By Stephen Pemberton

March 09, 2009

Before you start researching the average class sizes at your top choice colleges, you should assess your own learning style. Do you prefer a small environment with an emphasis on discussion? Or would you rather be in a large class with a lecturing professor? Both class sizes have their advantages and disadvantages, and knowing the style that fits you can help you make the right college choice.

Small Classes

A more personal classroom atmosphere can sometimes be an easier adjustment for college freshmen. They are less likely to feel like a number, a feeling that can sometimes impact students’ first semester grades.

Some additional aspects of smaller classes are:

  • Professors tend to be more available for questions and one-on-one help.
  • Classes are more discussion-oriented with a good deal of interaction among classmates.
  • Students are expected to be ready to discuss readings and assignments each class.
  • Professors might grade you on participation and attendance.

While these qualities mean a more personal level of attention from professors and classmates, the flip side is the pressure of being expected to participate in class and stay on top of homework.

Large Classes

While large classes lack the intimacy and quantity of interaction with professors, they also provide an opportunity to take more responsibility for your learning experience. You may have to make an effort to get to know the professor outside of class since opportunities during class are limited. Also, professors might not issue constant reminders of when assignments are due.

Some additional aspects of larger classes are:

  • Supplemental discussions are usually conducted by Teaching Assistants (TAs)
  • Exams and papers may carry more weight in determining your grade.
  • Attendance is less likely to count toward your grade.

In addition, the supplemental discussion provides an opportunity to cover class materials a second time, which can clarify any issues or questions about the material.

Whatever your class preference, keep in mind that classes are often larger in your freshman year because of curriculum requirements. At the same time you may have selected a major where the average class size is even smaller than the university statistic. When in doubt, ask the real experts – current undergraduates.

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