How important is class size after all?

Jul 12, 2011 by

Marion Brady

At a dinner honoring Mark Hopkins, president of Williams College from 1836 to 1872, President James A. Garfield said, “The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.”

One teacher: One student.

Three or four years ago, one of my granddaughters was enrolled in a biology course at a state university. Her class met in an auditorium.

One teacher: One thousand, four hundred and fifty students.

Class size is one of a long list of education-related issues about which arguments rage. Generally speaking, educators want small classes because they allow more individual attention. Those averse to taxes want large classes because they’re cheaper. Many think class size makes no important difference. Bill Gates speaks approvingly of one master teacher, alone in a television studio, lecturing millions of kids.

What you think is the best teacher-learner ratio depends primarily on your values and your theory of learning. I’m not qualified to delve into what prompts people to value the life of the mind and money differently, but I do know a little about theories of learning.

via How important is class size after all? – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post.

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