What is the ideal class size, for you?

Just as students have their optimum and preferred learning environments, I am learning that we as instructors also have our ideal teaching environments.

I agree with a recent Globe and Mail article  that cites Maimonides rule of 1,000 years ago that “classes with over 40 students require an additional instructor.”

At BCIT in the School of Business, classes must have at least 10 students to run. On the other hand, we are capped at 30. After 30, the instructor can allow a maximum of 5 more students in to the class. Instructors are paid a little more to allow for the additional grading, etc.

For me personally, my class-size sweet spot sits at about 15-20 students. I note that this is the same for face-to-face and online learning. Given the hours allotted per week for instruction, I think this number allows me to give an appropriate amount of time and individual attention to each student. It is also ideal for grading.

When the class gets too big 25-35 students, I find it hard to check for personal understanding with each student; what’s more, I lose track of people online more easily. Any less than 10 students in the class and there just isn’t the breadth of discussion (especially in a face-to-face environment) one requires for meaningful learning.

A paper shared by a student in my states that “larger online class sizes support Vygotsky’s Socio-Cultural Learning Theory in which more opportunities for social interaction resulted in higher measures of learning outcomes” (Oestmann, J & V).

As someone now in a “student” role again, and given my experience with the great discussion in this class, I agree with Oestmann’s findings. However, as an instructor, I stand by my ideal class size of 15-20.


About robincookbondy

My name is Robin Cook Bondy and I live in Ladner, BC with my husband and three sons. I am a communications and public relations professional pursuing further education in the area of adult learning.
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