Exploring Teacher Student Ratio 5
4. Four to nine students to one instructor, small group class
This is a common situation encountered in most small educational institutes or in advanced course classrooms. While small group classes often look like typical lecture-intensive classes of old, it can be the best setup to use active/collaborative learning methods.
At this size, it is still possible to give students some individualized attention. Also, since there are enough students, instructors can actually have easier time forging ahead in class content in order to keep up the pace needed to prepare for the upcoming tests. When there are three or fewer students in the class, it may actually be harder to ignore every little problem or setback a student may have. The greatest advantage of a class of this size is that it is much easier for instructors to make the students take turns in exploring and explaining the concepts at hand. Since there are enough people, chances are good that one of the other students will point out different angles to the topic at hand or ask a question on something related to the topic that other students didn’t pay sufficient attention to.
While the thought of plowing ahead even with some students not fully comprehending may sound like bad practice, in many situation, this may be needed in order to illustrate the big overall picture of the whole subject. It may be necessary to first show that Concept C came from Concept A, and Concept B, the one with which some students are having problems, is what connects A and C. Often, when the student finally sees the whole picture, he can understand the small bits and pieces much better. This is easier to do when, for any part of the subject, there always is a student or two who understands that particular part. No student may understand everything from the first run-through, but if there always is someone to fill in what another has missed, it becomes much easier and productive to engage students in active learning or collaborative learning sessions focused on the whole broad picture instead of minute details of the topic. When you have three or less students, there will be many cases where the class will encounter certain parts of the subject that everyone in the class will have trouble understanding, thus requiring instructors to try out various passive learning techniques to make enough of the class to understand it good enough to proceed to the next part. Despite larger class size, this setup may allow the whole class to cover more materials in less time compared to smaller classes.
While the diversity and number of students provide this setting with many benefits, the same diversity and number can work against this setup. It now becomes possible for a student or two to merely tag along, not participating in the class in meaningful ways. They may even try to hide from the instructor and sleep through the class. In this setup, while it is possible to make ALL students understand MOST of the material, and MOST of the students understand ALL the materials, it may be impossible to make ALL the students understand ALL the materials taught in the class. Despite the danger of possibly leaving a student or two behind, this student-teacher ratio often allows the greatest number of students to learn the greatest amount of material in the most efficient manner.
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