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class size

  • 1.  class size

    Posted 23-01-2017 03:26 PM
    Is there literature on optimal class size for language learning? Thanks for sharing!

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    Teresa Cheung
    Chair, ESL Dept.
    North Shore Community College, MA
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  • 2.  RE: class size

    Posted 30-01-2017 04:21 PM

    Hi Teresa Cheung!

    RE: “Is there literature on optimal class size for language learning? Thanks for sharing!”

    I’m not sure if my response to your question is what you are looking for.  But I’m under the impression you might be referring to the number of students per teacher [ratio] in the classroom—in your case, it’s an English class.      

     

    My counsel might be off here, but I presumed your employer—North Shore Community College should have the answer you are looking for.  I used to work at the community college in my county some years ago and as I recall the school decided the maximum number of students to admit in the classroom—as well as the minimum per semester cycle.  We must have 8-students to open a class and more can be added—provided seats are available.  I’ll have to re-direct you to ask this question to your employer—as you should abide by the school rules and policies—as opposed to a literature. 


    MerriLee Leonard
    M.A., TESL
    University Teacher
    Washington, D.C. 




  • 3.  RE: class size

    Posted 31-01-2017 08:55 AM
    Hi,
    I respectfully disagree with the response to check your employer's rules. Why tell someone not to look for information? I don't understand in general why an educator would do that? Also, referring to rules may be good for keeping your job, but often the rules have little to do what is optimal pedagogically, or at least with evidence-based theories on it.
    Furthermore, with this specific case, we don't know why she is looking for this information. Perhaps she is considering doing research on this and is trying to find what literature is out there already, perhaps she is in a debate with colleagues about class sizes, or perhaps her employer has asked her to propose ideal class sizes and she would like some evidence other than personal experience to help her decide.
    I can't off the top of my head refer to any literature on it, sorry, but if anyone could then I think they should share it. And if not, why try to shut down the sharing of information?

    Thomas E. Bieri
    Assistant Professor, Nanzan University Director of Public Relations, Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) SIG AM Liaison, JALT Extensive Reading SIG & Computer Assisted Language Learning SIG


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    Thomas Bieri
    Japan
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  • 4.  RE: class size

    Posted 31-01-2017 08:55 AM
    hi Teresa
    For English teachers in in Asia, class size is academic.
    In China in the public tertiary sector, 40 students is about average with the range going as high as 60 students per class.
    In English-speaking countries many fewer per class as you are experiencing.
    In my career, so far, the answer is to make the large number of students a plus, with activities like singing (as a warm up or warm down) much enhanced with a big crowd.
    The other plus is that less-able students can remain more-or-less anonymous in singing situations. hopefully they gain confidence and enter into the other class activities with renewed enthusiasm.
    Cocktail party activities are also better in large classes. the larger number of students provide many more one-on-one interactions.
    The teacher just cannot be party to all the teaching/learning interactions. He/she must introduce the activity and observe while the students get on with it.
    The problem is that assessment must be on a one-to-one basis and this is where the large classes are harder to manage.

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    Rob Harris
    Mr
    Personal
    New Zealand
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  • 5.  RE: class size

    Posted 01-02-2017 08:32 AM
    Rob,

    You are somewhat mistaken here.

    In Higher Education in China, English classes are divided between College English (non-English majors who have to take English courses to prepare for College English Test [CET] examinations) and English Major students.

    In College English courses, the class size varies based on schools, but can range from 30 - 60 students per class.

    In English Major courses, the class size usually tops out at 30.

    In some Universities, class sizes can be as small as 20 for English Majors, but it depends on the intake of students and whether the school divides them into 2 or 3 cohorts. At The University of Science and Technology Beijing, Renmin University, Peking University, and most other major Universities, there are 60 students divided into two cohorts of 30; however, at smaller Universities such as The University of International Relations, they run 60 students in 3 cohorts of 20 each (and while some classes have overlapping numbers up to 30, they also have compulsory courses limited to 20).

    Just wanted to clear that up.

    Cheers,
    Rob

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    Robin Dahling
    University of International Relations - Beijing, PRC
    China
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  • 6.  RE: class size

    Posted 02-02-2017 08:21 AM
    What you say may apply in BJ but not in the 3xtertiaries I've taught at.
    2 in Dalian and one in Qingdao.
    For English majors and particularly for the Oral component, the students relied on one of  IELTS, TOEFL,  Pearson, and CAC? Western testing systems for gaining entry to post-grad studies in the West. At the Western university I'm most familiar with, the accepted test regimes are as above and the grade that must be registered is also closely specified. 
    English majors (at Dalian Maritime which is nationally ranked) had their class size limited to 20-25 for Oral but the students amalgamated into larger groups for the literature and other academic classes taught in Chinese. The Chinese teachers adopted a lecture format rather than the interactive format of Oral classes.
    The largest class I've taught in China had a nominal 70 students but normally only about 60 turned up on a regular basis. 




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    Rob Harris
    Mr
    Personal
    New Zealand
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  • 7.  RE: class size

    Posted 02-02-2017 11:06 AM
    Hey Rob,

    It also applies (from what I've been told) in Chongqing, Xi'an, Suzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, but as I noted, different universities do things differently. It all depends on their uptake and whether we are talking about English Majors or College English.

    I've given school-wide lectures at BeiKeDa that were 200+ students, but these were elective courses to fulfill the requirement for a class taught in English, and most students never attended the lectures (and wondered why they failed the course in the end).

    I've predominately taught English majors compulsory courses, so I've never had the issue with class size that you mention, but colleagues have - one of my colleagues at UIR wound up having to teach all the Senior English Majors Public Speaking, which meant he had a class of 75+ students - it made grading their final speeches a serious pain. I don't worry about the size of writing classes that much (I'm bound to a lot of marking no matter how many classes they spread the kids out), but we did have issues with engaging students in Oral English and Public Speaking classes when the class size got too large. Of course, there is no mandatory Oral English component for CET or TEM exams, so really, most schools could not care less about the Oral English classes or how effective they are (which is also why they are given to foreign "experts") - the only ones that seem to care are the teachers themselves and students planning to do TOEFL/IELTS/etc.

    Cheers,
    Rob

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    Robin Dahling
    University of International Relations - Beijing, PRC
    China
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  • 8.  RE: class size

    Posted 03-02-2017 08:43 AM
    Thanks Rob.
    Oral really is the poor relation isn't it.
    I don't know if you are aware but the college entrance exam (Gao Kao) also has no Oral component. Indeed with 12m students sitting, it would be hard to give each of them the one-on-one attention necessary to award a meaningful mark.
    This means that students give scant, if any attention to Oral in their final high school year.
    Many students stay back a year in high school in the hope of improving their Gao Kao score and entering a higher status university. This means some of our freshers have had no formal Oral practice for TWO years.
    No wonder IELTS and TOEFL are relied on for Oral.
    Best



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    Rob Harris
    Mr
    Personal
    New Zealand
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  • 9.  RE: class size

    Posted 02-02-2017 08:20 AM
    Hi Teresa,

    This is a great question, especially since a lot of folks here have so differing views on what an optimal class size is to begin with. I am curious myself. There's a high demand for classes to make, and the maximum capacity for classrooms keep rising. Is it okay to keep increasing the number of students, or are we sacrificing the quality of their education?

    As for the literature, I did a quick search and found some work done by Harfitt (2012) on the class size of language classes in Hong Kong where students reported to have more confidence in a smaller classroom in secondary schools (going from 40+ student classes to 20-30 student classes). 

    I want to know if this can be applied to all age groups too. 

    Not sure if this helps, but I hope it starts somewhere for you. 

    Juliet

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    Juliet Huynh
    UTA
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  • 10.  RE: class size

    Posted 03-02-2017 09:37 AM
    Edited by Teresa Cheung 03-02-2017 11:51 AM
    Hi, Juliet and all,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful and helpful responses!

    I received a wonderful reply through a different discussion board (in the TESOL Higher Ed Community) from Maureen Andrade, the Associate VP of Academic Programs from Utah Valley University, which provided excellent and essential information from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) about class size. Please see the link and their statement at the end of the message.

    Those of us in the classroom intuitively know that smaller classes allow students the needed opportunity for frequent discourse and practice, so it's important that standards/guidelines exist to address this critical element in language learning. Thanks to Maureen for sharing them with me!
    Although the current cap at my school is 22, based on considerations such as cost (of course), and labor union contract rules, fortunately, I have been able to advocate successfully for smaller classes on a case by case basis, in the name of student learning.  Our dept is currently undergoing program review as part of our college's re-accreditation process, and I am hoping to provide justification for limiting all our ESL classes to 18, if we truly want our students to develop academic language proficiency.

    Best wishes to all!

    Teresa Cheung

    https://www.actfl.org/news/position-statements/maximum-class-size

    Since the goal of a standards-based language program is to develop students’ ability to communicate, there must be opportunities for frequent and meaningful student-to-teacher and student-to-student interaction, monitored practice, and individual feedback during instructional time.

    Therefore, while ACTFL recognizes the fiscal realities faced by schools and institutions of higher education, ACTFL supports the recommended class size of no more than 15 students, made by both the National Education Association (NEA) and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL). Since the most important consideration in determining class size should be pedagogical efficacy, ACTFL's position applies to both traditional and online classroom settings. Where larger class sizes exist, teachers must be provided with additional support in order to maintain sound pedagogical practices.



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    Teresa Cheung
    Chair, ESL Dept.
    North Shore Community College
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  • 11.  RE: class size

    Posted 03-02-2017 01:03 PM
    I think class size can vary greatly on what is being taught, the L1 and level of the students, and especially on the quality of the teacher.  For example, if you have a class of 25 students whose L1 is Spanish, at an intermediate level, being taught writing by an experienced teacher, that I consider an acceptable class size, perhaps not ideal, but acceptable.  On the other hand, if you have Vietnamese students, at the literacy level, learning speaking with a beginner teacher, five students might be too many.  Even if you always teach the same skill at the same level, student competence and L1 should affect class size.  I know we are typically under the regulations of the school or organization, so we often must take 25 students when we know that is too many.  What to do about that is an entirely different discussion though.  Julie

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    Julie Brown
    ESL Program Director
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  • 12.  RE: class size

    Posted 06-02-2017 08:21 AM
    Dear Teresa,
    Sorry for entering the discussion late!
    I think the question of optimal class size is often asked by school directors and educational planners more generally to decide on the maximum number of students in a class without compromising the quality of learning. However, I'm afraid more than a century of research on this issue has not yielded any conclusive results (or a definite answer to the question of optimal class size).  However, it is now widely recognized that the variable of class size interacts with and upon other variables in the context such as teachers' previous experience of class size, space available in the classroom and the kind of preferred methodology by the teacher and.or administrators.  Hence, each context is different and needs to be analysed in relation to all the variables that influence teachers and learners' perceptions and experience of class size.
    There is a lot of research available on this issue which Richard Smith and I have tried to put together on a website created for this purpose. Please follow the link below for class size studies:
    telcnet.weebly.com

    For a quick summary of class size issues, you can also refer to my recent article (with Kuchah Kuchah) on the issue of class size:

    Shamim, F. & K. Kuchah (2016). Teaching large classes in difficult circumstances. In Hall, G. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of ELT. London: Routledge.


    Hope you find this helpful.  However, if you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to contact me either through this group or directly.
    Best
    Fauzia

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    Fauzia Shamim
    ELC, Taibah University
    Saudi Arabia
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