Thursday, March 20, 2008

The hazards of tiny classes

One of the campuses where I lecture has a "relaxed" minimum size requirement. Instead of the standard seven-student-minimum (which, itself, is considerably smaller than other minimum levels across this system), we have a five-minimum. Even this can be relaxed if, say, a student drops the class after the Official Date Of Record, leaving a class with four students. After all, who wants to cancel a class after students have done their first exams? And we might have to refund their money It wouldn't be fair!

So I have two classes this semester that are "micro-classes." One of them has five students, the bare minimum. Usually I welcome sections like this, because it gives me a chance to really interact with my students. However, in a class this size, literally, there is no place to hide. And three of my students come from a social background that stresses deference to instructors and silence in class, so having discussion is like pulling teeth.

The other class, an evening class, is down to four. This is very problematic in that several of my students are coming straight off of work, so we frequently start late. The second is that when even one of them is absent, the dynamic in the classroom noticeably diminishes.

I'm dealing with this even now: I'm supposed to be at a meeting, I had to get my students started on an exam, and two of them picked tonight to get caught in traffic. Ugh!

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