Saturday, July 16, 2011

Practical Tips for Teaching Large Classes

What is a “Large Class”?

Many teachers in South Africa – and you may be one of them – find themselves working in primary school classrooms that contain many learners, sometimes almost filling the room! Actually, though, a large class has no “exact size.” Usually it is measured in terms of the number of learners per teacher (student-teacher ratio). In some countries, 25-30 learners per one teacher is considered large, while in other
countries this is seen to be normal or even quite small. From a teacher’s perspective, though, a class is “large” whenever it feels large. While a class of more than 50 learners is usually considered a large class, to those of you who normally teach 25 or fewer learners, a class of 35 can be large and overwhelming.

For many of us faced with large classes, we might be tempted to give up, thinking that there is no chance of getting so many learners to learn. The problem is, however, that we assume that learning occurs in proportion to class size. The smaller the class, the more learners learn. However, research shows that class size does not automatically correlate with student learning.

Learners in large classes can learn just as well as those in small ones. What counts is not the size of the class, but the quality of the teaching. Evidence shows that learners place more emphasis on the quality of teaching than class size. Moreover, they may not mind being in a large class as much as you may think they do, or as
much as you mind it yourself.

What is the Challenging Opportunities for you?


Ceanlia said...

Teaching large classes is a challenge, but it can also offer many opportunities for you to improve your teaching and to make it more enjoyable and rewarding for you and your learners.

In a large class setting, you have the opportunity to improve your organizational and managerial skills as you work to creatively organise
your classroom into a comfortable, welcoming learning environment and
to manage the many learners within it.

Large classes offer you the opportunity to improve your
interpersonal skills as you try different ways to get to know each learner as an individual through their work in class or their lives outside
of it. They will also equally enjoy getting to know you.

Ceanlia said...

Large classes give you the opportunity to improve your teaching and presentation skills. As the teacher above mentions, constantly lecturing to a large class – or even a small one – can become boring and bothersome.

The value of a large class is that it contains a diversity of learners and learning styles, and you can use many different, active, and fun ways of teaching.

The cumulative knowledge, experiences, skills, and interests of your many learners, furthermore, can be valuable starting points for planning lessons and activities so that learning becomes meaningful for your learners. In addition, by involving your learners’ families, you will also have greater access to resources for learning.

You will also improve your evaluation skills as you devise a variety of ways to tell whether your learners have really learned the material, instead of relying only on short answer exams, which may seem necessary for large classes. For instance, you can give your learners in-class and out-of-class assignments that ask them what they have learned and what questions they have about what they have learned. Rather than following your learners’ failures, you can also track their successes, which are also your successes in teaching. You will find also that involving your learners
in their learning and in assessing how well they have done can save you
time and reduce your workload.