The question of “would you prefer a big class or a small class?” was first proposed to me in my sophomore year of high school. My brother was visiting multiple colleges at the time, and I was tagging along to get some college experience for myself. First, we visited Penn State University Park, and we both loved it. As many of you know, however, the class sizes here are considered very large. Penn State ensured all the visitors that the instructors do a great job, and there are TA’s so class size is never an issue. My brother then visited a much smaller school with only about 1,500 students. On that visit, the tour guides preached about the small class size and the face to face interaction you get with the professor. Since that visit, I have been wondering if class size really makes a difference in your learning experience.
My personal opinion on this issue is that class size does affect how you learn. In this case, the null hypothesis is that class size has no affect on learning. The alternative hypothesis is that class size does affect learning.
This study was performed state wide in Tennessee. It randomly put students and teachers into either a large or small class and had them remain in that class for 2 years. It then tested the students at the end of the year to see which class size performed better. According to the study, it was a decisive win for the smaller class size. This study claims that class size has a very big effect on learning, and it would reject the null hypothesis.
I have a few concerns about this study, however. My first concern is that the results could be a false positive. The kids in the smaller class may just be smarter than those in the large class. The smaller class may have had a better teacher, as well, which allowed them to perform better on the test. The experiment has some inconsistencies that could make the results flawed. This article shows more possible inconsistencies within the study.
I would make a few changes to improve this study. First, I think you should have the same teacher teach both classes. By doing this, there is more consistency in the experiment and equal teaching to both classes. I also believe the experiment should be performed on different age groups as well, not just kindergarten. This would increase sample size and show whether or not the results are consistent throughout grades.
In the end, I do not believe the results of this particular study are credible. I believe more research and better experiments must be done before the true answer is known. If you are deciding between colleges with differing class sizes, no matter what people say, it comes down to what you prefer and are comfortable with. I do not believe a rational person should force themselves into smaller classes to improve their learning based on this study.