Whatever happened to the golden rule of utmost 50 students per class, no one knows! Some of the lectures in Rwanda today have turned into crusades attended by hundreds of students. The lack of simple equipments like microphones worsens the situation although students will strain to listen in.
The general picture is that where 100 students are squeezed out of their wits for lack of space, and a teacher profusely sweating and shouting to the crack of his voice to impart knowledge? Yet I am surprised we say our graduates are half baked! How do we expect to harvest apples when all that we are planting are mango seeds?
Teaching a large class is not only challenging but also pedagogically unacceptable. The biggest problem is that overcrowding of classrooms results into many things being unclear. Having two hundred students with each bringing a host of issues to the table every day makes it impossible to connect each face to the work submitted.
While some lecturers may say that it’s not my job to be a social worker or to know my students’ lives, a connection between a teacher and a student has a big impact on his or her personal life. Through teamwork, teachers are able to evaluate students’ learning, identify weaknesses and strengths or otherwise prescribe the proper regimen to achieve optimal educational health.
It is hard to draw definitive conclusions about student achievement based on class size alone, since other variables such as the quality of teachers, students’ degree of motivation and the role of the parents come into play but one clear cut finding is that large classes yield pedagogical shortcomings.
One of the main difficulties that teachers are likely to experience while teaching a large class is the tremendous effort they have to put in to ensure that students understand.
Comparably, it is difficult to satisfy all knowledge demands for the student.In situations where unruly behavior is encountered, large classes are difficult to control and many teachers end up getting stressed.If you have a lecture with a big class, you need to have proper organizing, planning and presenting practices. Large classes strain school resources such as computers, books, references and furniture among other things.
The choice of a class may not entirely be left at the discretion of the teacher. Classes with huge numbers are at times decided by the administration. Irrespective of the circumstances, teachers have a duty to make teaching more effective.
First, it would be a great idea to train students to work in small groups of five to seven students. And when working in groups, it would be beneficial for students to sit around in a circle so that everyone could have a chance to participate. Such groups should include fewer members to avoid any of the students being a parasite. It is important to find active roles for students to avoid them being lazy.
Pair work may be also a good alternative to practice conversations, exercises and other language activities. Pairing weaker students with stronger ones might be an option unless you fear the weaker students feel intimidated.
It may also help to create energetic and engaging lessons. Every lesson must be enticing to draw attention. It is easy for students in any class to be distracted and lose interest, but this is especially true in a large classroom. Lessons must be fast paced, unique, and interactive.
Although costs are an issue, government should address the issue of class size with agency because such classes are making teaching and learning difficult.
The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa