Statistical analysis, conducted both in the fall of 1998 and 1999 indicate overwhelmingly that students prefer the small classes that are now the norm in freshman English. In a survey of freshmen in College English I, 499 believed they learned more in their English classes than in other courses. Among the areas in which students overwhelmingly voted in the affirmative were the issues of student-instructor interaction, ability to participate in class, individualized attention, and more extensive assessment of written work. 525 believed their experience would be different were the class larger, as opposed to 70 who did not. This positive response is not withstanding that the student workload for these classes increased markedly once class size was reduced.

The following are representative exerpts from the fall 1999 survey of freshmen in writing classes.  They show a keen awareness of what happens when class size goes up, even by 5 students:

I prefer small class sizes because more individual teaching is done. If you have any questions or concerns relating to the topic, the professor can assist you. If there were more students in the class it would be difficult to be heard. For example, you wouldn’t get as much feedback on drafts because the professor will have too many to correct. There wouldn’t be as much time for revisions and class discussion. Everyone will have questions but the size of the class will not permit a healthy discussion. Everyone will try to speak and nothing will get done. None of these issues are a problem in our class. We all have a chance to speak even if we don’t want too (HaHa). In this way you are guaranteed to learn because you have to do all the required readings and assignments. In a big class setting you can hide in the back of the class. I enjoy small classes and recommend more classes like it.

I do like large classes but this English class should be kept the size it is. I found that the teacher was able to give me the help and attention I needed. I feel that if the class size were to be enlarged it would hurt the students. The advantage to the class size here was that no matter what I was always able to work with my teacher to produce better works of writing.

I find a smaller class size more helpful for many reasons. The professor can take his or her time in grading the papers as compared to rushing when grading many papers of classes containing 20-30 students. The professor can have one-on-one sessions with students in a small class size, sort of like what Professor Tilton-Levine did with my class. She evaluated our writing skills by having a 10-minute session with each student. If the class were big, the professor will have a hard time talking to each and every student. Basically, the smaller the class the better because that gives the professor a lot of time to spend with his or her students in terms of evaluation of writing skills, revision of papers etc.

When choosing a college or university to attend, I specifically looked for one with small class sizes. In previous experiences concerning size, it does matter. As the class gets larger, many students learn less and have less opportunity for participation. For example, both my History class and my English class had an excess of thirty students. The result of this was our class "moved" slower than classes with 15 students; consequently, we learned less in these classes. I wanted the chance to participate in class discussions that I did not have in high school. Also, I wanted the professor to be easily accessible. For Seton Hall University to suddenly turn around and increase its class size, is one more reason for a prospective student NOT to attend this university.

If there were 20-30 students in this class, then I feel that when we were given the chance to have a one-on-one meeting about the pieces of writing that were submitted, then there would have been little or no time at all. It basically boils down to the individual attention, there would be none. And it helps to have a small number of people in the class because after a while you feel more comfortable reading your pieces of writing.

If there were 20-30 students in this class, we would never get our peer editing done! More importantly a larger class size might adversely impact our class discussions, since it would become likely that we would spend a class or two reviewing past material for the benefit of a 5 or so people. A large class might also mean that the instructor spends less time reviewing individual drafts while simultaneously taking more time to give the drafts back… lowering a student’s ability to revise the work. The problems I’ve just described happened in one of my former writing classes, which had 25 students.

My English class right now has 12 students total in it. I have never had an English class this small but found that I enjoyed the class much more. The class size made the entire atmosphere more comfortable and I felt that my writings in class were better focused upon. I did not feel any competition or intimidation from other students and the attention given to each of us by the professor was fair and equal. Our class discussions were always enjoyable and never got loud or out of control. Each student was always able to speak their voice and because of the class size, they were heard and understood better by classmates. I think making the English classes 20-30 students would negatively affect the success of the students in those classes.

To have a writing class of 20-30 students would be a problem in that the attention needed to help someone on a paper would not be accessible. The smaller the class the more comments a teacher can give to each individual and papers can be reviewed much faster. If the class is smaller, it allows the teacher to give more assignment, which then gives others additional chances to do better and learn the material. I have found it easier to communicate with my professor in smaller classes and easier to get more help without a line of students waiting behind me.

I liked having the smaller class size. It made the peer critiquing and readings easier and more helpful. I was also able to contact and conference with the instructor more frequently. Class discussions were more personalized and I thing that people felt that they could talk more freely in the private setting. I found the class interesting and beneficial toward my writing. A larger class would have been less personalized and I do not believe I would have gotten the same feedback on my essay in a larger class.

I think it would be a mistake to increase the class size. I feel very comfortable in my small class. Our class discussions are amazing and our work-shopping works wonderfully because of our class size. If our class size is upped now, who’s to say it won’t be upped more in the future? The one thing I really liked about Seton Hall was how small the class size was. All my professors know my name.

I think that increasing class size can work, but it would be less affective for the students. Classes of 10-15 have a lot more productive discussions. With a lot of students there would be less attention given and more people would be vulnerable to failing and not paying attention in class.

The size of this class was perfect. I know everyone, and was able to correspond with all of my classmates. The best part of all was being able to comment on each other’s papers so we could all improve.

The experience in the class would change because of the simple reason of not everyone having the chance of getting the attention one needs in a writing class. The relationship between the teacher and student wouldn’t even exist. A smaller size would create a relationship and space/attention to succeed.

I think that the enrollment of 20-30 students is a little too many for one class. If I wanted that many people in one class then I would have gone to a state school. I don’t feel that would have the same chance in a class, if there were more students with less people I feel more work gets done.

I feel that the size of our class now, is perfect. It makes it easier to discuss essays etc. Having a bigger class generally means the teacher doesn’t know your name and there is little time to go over everyone’s problems. I purposely looked for a school with a small student: teacher ratio.

I think that if there were 20-30 students in class it would be chaotic. I feel that with 16 we have a better chance of getting help from the teacher and also are peer. I have classes with 2-30 students and it usually takes 2 classes to get one thing done. I think the class size is adequate at 16. We are able to hold class discussions, do peer responding, get help from the teacher, and do other activities with ease. I think 16 is fine and it should stay this way. Thank you.
 I feel that increasing the class size will severely limit students from being able to take advantage of class time. We as a class are already under severe time constraints with the amount of peer critiquing in class as well as the open debates we have over the essays we read. By increasing class size, there will be less opportunities for people to fully ask their questions or state their thoughts because more people in a given class will reduce the amount of time and attention each student can utilize. In addition to the lack of time and attention, it will create more undo pressure on professors. With more papers to read, tests to grade, and e-mails to respond to, I feel that the professor will not able to dispense their current level of effort to each and every student. In my opinion, either kept classes the same size or decrease by three or four students.

I have just received this note from Professor Romano and I hope I am not too late. In support of the case for small classes, I would like to display a brief example. I have always had English classes of 29-25 people. Learning was at a minimum because there was no individual focus and discussions were spread too thin. In Professor Romano’s class this semester, I have learned a good deal. I give him a great deal of credit, for he is excellent, but even the best teacher can only do so much with the wrong environment. My class has approximately 14 people in it daily and the discussions are interactive and exciting rather than dry lectures. Please do whatever possible to keep classes small at Seton Hall University. Thank you very much.