A new study links increasing class size with a reduction in student learning and faculty ratings (Link to article). I don’t think there are any surprises in this, as an instructor there is a noticeable difference in the amount of attention I can give to each individual student in a class with a smaller class size.
What I don’t agree with is the blanket notion that effective instruction cannot be delivered in larger class sizes. What this study fails to account for is using different pedagogy to deliver the curriculum when a class grows in size. It should be just as common sense, as surmising that there are negative consequences when moving away from a small class, that an instructor should change methods to best fit a larger student body.
New technologies play a great role, and are quite effective, in reaching a greater number of students. I believe that using modern methods in larger class sizes can help create a more intimate and more personal learning environment than what this study suggests. Clearly, an instructor that delivers a traditional lecture to both a small and large class size should get the same results as found in this study. However what if we compared the traditional lecture in a small size class to a curriculum given to a larger student set that focuses on presenting and reinforcing content using interactive and graphical visuals, real-time collaborative communities and simulation tools all while targeting individual learning styles and strategies.