How Small Class Sizes Promote Deeper Learning

jcu1For many students, few things are more intimidating than the first day of school. Whether you’re a toddler resisting kindergarten, a teenager entering high school, or a young adult who has decided to study abroad in Italy – you’ll always get that familiar twinge of excitement and anxiety once September approaches. Some university students feel nervous about trading the familiar hallways of high school for the cavernous lecture auditoriums of typical universities. They wonder how they’ll meet new friends or speak up in class in front of hundreds of strangers – and a distant professor behind a far-off podium.

Attending a school with smaller class sizes is an obvious way to ease these anxieties. But did you know that there are also other substantial gains to be made from studying in a more close-knit setting? Take a closer look at how a smaller classroom can actually promote deeper, more meaningful learning.

Reduced Fear of Participation

Surrounded by fewer unfamiliar faces, students are far more likely to participate in class discussions. Educators have long understood that asking questions, voicing concerns and articulating opinions contributes to authentic active learning. Rather than passively listening to a lecturer without participating, active learners absorb concepts better and find their classes more personally rewarding.

Personalized Learning

Personalized education is not often found in schools that have larger classrooms, because there are simply too many students to accommodate.  However, teachers who work in a smaller class setting have the opportunity to focus on each student individually and truly get to know their unique strengths and weaknesses. By forming more personalized relationships with their students, small-class professors can customize lectures, assignments and learning plans to suit the needs of diverse learners.

Everyone learns at a different pace, and if your teacher can determine how to approach a concept in a way that you’ll understand, you’re more likely to do well and earn higher grades—which will open up doors to graduate school or help launch a professional career.

Social Networking

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when you’re part of a classroom with fewer students, you’re more likely to make connections and build friendships. Study abroad and degree seeking students who attend an American university in Rome are particularly interested in making new friends from around the world – and smaller class sizes make those networks easier to grow and maintain. In fact, learning how to establish social networks is an incredibly useful tool beyond university in the professional marketplace. Students attending smaller sized universities often gain a competitive edge when it comes to reaching out and making new contacts – which they leverage when entering the workforce.

jcu2Cultural Exploration

If you plan to study in Italy, a smaller class can result in better access to local learning opportunities. Imagine trying to organize a fieldtrip for 400 students in a standard university class?  There’s a reason why most traditional colleges confine learning to the lecture hall!

On the other hand, if you’re part of a smaller group, field trips and local travel suddenly become possible – and an integral part of your course curriculum.  After all, the most authentic learning comes from doing, exploring, experiencing and sharing!

What other advantages to you think come with small class sizes?

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