The perfect classroom size is 12 students.
Was the answer above not enough? When reading other blogs, it isn’t often that the answer is just given to you before you start. It is assumed that if you give the answer to the question, then there is no reason to read any further, hence you have allowed the reader to learn without clicking on your post.
However, when I started writing this blog, I just put the answer that came to my mind in order to help myself think about what I should include. To me, the answer was more enticing to read more than a question. Why 12? Why not 13, 11, 1 or 100? Where did this number come from and under what authority did I have to make such a claim? This then lead to my next thought,
In the classroom, why are students (and teachers) so focused on what the answer to a question is?
While I could (and will) use an entire post to discuss this topic in the future, I will leave that thought for now and get back to classroom size.
An early morning encounter
On Friday morning, I was headed to my office in order to get the materials I would need to teach my Calculus class. It was early, and I hadn’t completely woken up, but I was trying to do so as I walked to the classroom. On Friday, this is a little more difficult, because my class is a half-hour earlier than usual, so my body doesn’t quite realize it should be awake yet.
Another consequence of the class starting earlier on Friday is that the majority of instructors show up to work during that half hour, so the hallways would normally be fairly full. This day, however, there was only one other individual in the hallway, and this was the department chair. As we were the only two there, we stopped and had a conversation. While he is an amenable person and I enjoy talking to him, I wasn’t ready to have an intelligent conversation and fear jolted through me as I thought of all the consequences of making myself look foolish during this exchange. We started talking about the courses I was teaching, books I was using and, eventually, the size differences between each of them.
I was suddenly thinking about all the past experiences I had in class, trying to find examples of what I had liked, what I hadn’t liked, what had seemed to work for the students, and what hadn’t worked for the students. Again, the questions of why came into play in each of the cases, and I tried to pull all the thoughts through the mind fog caused by the early morning.
While, I will leave you in suspense as to why the perfect class size is 12, I won’t leave you wondering about the outcome of the conversation. It went well. I was able to pull together some coherent thoughts, and he shared some information I hadn’t known before. In all, it ended up being an enjoyable conversation. It did, however, leave me with thinking about the perfect class size. Check out the post tomorrow for more on the perfect class size.
As a note, next Friday I plan on getting my coffee fix before class.