Does class size matter?

I’ve always wondered about whether class size is important in college. Places like UC Berkeley and UCLA have huge classes (hundreds of students) that are often taught by grad students–and they’re always ranked near the top 10  of just about every Top 10 list of the best colleges and universities. But those small liberal arts colleges–like the one my oldest daughter is going to in upstate New York–are doing a bang up business. In this guest post, Paul Stephen makes a pretty good case for smaller class sizes. But I have to admit, I’m not 100 percent convinced that they’re the best option for everyone.

So you’re deciding which University to go to.  When factoring in class size, I’d  stick to the smaller class size and I’ll explain why.  From my own experience, I prefer smaller classes so that you can have a more personalized education and have more leadership opportunities. I attended Brown University, where class size was generally very small and I was able to get to know not only my professors but my classmates as well.

Getting to Know Your Professor

Oftentimes this key aspect of education slips by the wayside.  Larger universities have graduate students who teach a majority of the classes.  At smaller universities like Brown, the undergraduate experience is what is most important.  You will most likely be taught be a Professor, not a teaching assistant.  Why is this important you might ask? Well, getting to know your professor might help you make better decisions in your education.

I switched majors during my time at Brown and my professors were there to advise and help me make the right choices.

My professors were able to get to know me just as much as I was able to get to know them.  This way, they were more focused on helping me learn.  They were able to address my learning needs more rapidly and effectively.  Therefore, there is much more attention for each student.  This makes all the difference in learning.  I have had a few large classes while at Brown and believe me it was much more difficult to get the help and attention I needed.  On the other hand, I was able to excel in the smaller classroom.

Furthermore, in small classes, professors are more focused on actual teaching.  They have less other concerns like research or being disciplinarians.  They will put more effort into their classes and the curricula.  This means better courses and possibly new classes.

Making a Difference

Instead of being treated like a number, smaller class size allows you to use your voice and be counted as an individual.  You can make a difference by speaking up in class or taking on a leadership role.  Small class size allows for greater interaction with your peers. You can share ideas and ask questions you would not have the chance of asking in a larger class size. This way, you can get more attention and focus on the things you don’t understand.  Remember, your contribution counts!

A Personal Experience

In a smaller class at the University, education is more about you! How great does that sound? Well, larger universities might have more to pick and choose from, but the crux of the matter is that with smaller classes, you get to choose and design a major that interests you.  At Brown, I was able to study Comparative Literature (Russian/English).  This was particularly interesting for me because I love literature, writing and am of Russian descent.  It worked for me. Here I am several years later, still writing and researching and doing what I love.

Do It Yourself

Instead of learning about how to do something, you will actually do it yourself in a small class.  This is of tremendous importance to all you science majors.  Hands on opportunities should not be taken for granted.  It’s a great way to learn and master something like how to use a telescope for example.  My writing at Brown improved dramatically as I was learning hands on and being critiqued every step of the way.  By continuously writing, I was able to improve.  This was a big step for me. Although I enjoyed writing before coming to this University, I was able to get feedback from experts in their field.

Paul Stephen writes from Nipissing University. Our psychology degree programs benefit students with an extensive list of psychology courses to choose from, many involving laboratory or practicum components. Nipissing’s small class sizes work to our student’s advantage.