Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Study on People's Perception of College

A new survey has been published about people's perception of college. There are lots of interesting tidbits on here but one caught my eye - class size. As colleges investigate how they balance budgets class size keeps looming up.

Higher Ed Morning published these statistics

* 60% believe colleges could “take a lot more students” without sacrificing quality or increasing costs.

There were lots of interesting statistics but this one stood out. So, if colleges take more students, class sizes will have to grow. The argument has been that class size negatively affects learning so why would the people surveyed say it does not?

Years ago, working on my masters, lots of researchers, including me, looked at large college classes. The results were all over the board. Seems that class size is just one small variable for student learning. It can or cannot be good and it depends on many factors.

Dan Barrick has an interesting take on it in his article for Inside Higher Education, Does Class Size Matter He doesn't have the answer, but he has some interesting thoughts. If we continue to grow colleges and class size, we need to do research on how we can effectively teach large classes without killing the professors and losing the students.

Large class sizes are not going to go away. So, we need to begin investigating what it takes to produce an effective large class, identifying those factors and putting them in our formula for success.

There is one interesting analogy he gave about building autos to illustrate how mass production methods have been laboriously scrutinized and studied by industry. The result has been that many mass produced cars are related more reliable and better built than smaller almost-by-hand manufacturers. We should put the same amount of research in how to effectively teach large classes.

There was a tad bit of a flaw in his example. His analogy was how Toyota has been rated better than Ferrari. Guess that means as we learn how to effectively teach large classes, we should never think we are done.

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