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The Argument for Making Large Classes Seem Small

This chapter argues why small group study is important in large classes.

The chapter first admits that large classes and lecture modes are going to exist in reality for a long period of time. However, there are many problems with large classes. For example, there are very few student-student and student-instructor interaction. The feedback that students get is limited and not immediate. Students often do not get a feeling of belonging. The time on task is very low. There are also many problems with lectures. For example, lecturers make a series of assumptions about learners that may not be justified. Lecture is effective for memorizing lower-level factual material but not effective for long-term knowledge retention.

Then the chapter presents six theoretical and empirical rational for using small groups
  • Promoting Cognitive Elaboration: students need construct their own understanding of the material but not only memorizing it. Strategies include asking students to discuss concepts/ideas and teaching each other.

  • Enhancing Critical Thinking: Social interaction engagement is very important. Students learn from each other. We should help students form resource networks with others who are involved in the activity. The use of small-group instruction can significantly enhance academic achievement.

  • Providing Feedback: the important of this was highly acknowledged in literatures.

  • Promoting Social and Emotional Development: the small-group structures help develop affective dimensions of students.

  • Appreciating Diversity: the most consistent outcome associated with the use of cooperative learning is tolerance of diversity.

  • Reducing Student Attrition: a primary predictor of retention in college is student involvement in the communal life of the college. For many part-time, adult, and commuter students, the overwhelming percentage of contact with the college community occurs in the classroom. Whether commuter or residential, students can build both involvement and important social bonds through collaborative classroom work.

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