Evaluation Essay: How Class Size Affects Learning
Most of us would indeed agree that class sizes in schools have an impact regarding student performance. Class size, in this case, refers to the actual number of students in class. Although most people argue that larger classes have a negative on the class performance of the students, some bet to differ. According to a past Salt Lake City Tribune article, the executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, Judi Clark said, “Class size is really irrelevant in this day and age in education. It’s not about how many children you have in the classroom. It’s about how you’re leveraging technology to deliver one-on-one instruction." So how do classes affect the learning and performance of students? In the recent past, SAGE test results have shown that most schools scoring within a range of “D” and “F” have attributed this to having large classes. Such large classes imply that students have less working computers which means they have a small chance of exercising computer-based learning or even complete enough practice writing activities. This paper will focus on the impact of class sizes on learning and general performance of students and how this can relate to the book “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell. It will also address the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos.
According to the article “Class Size and Student Achievement” by Dominic J. Brewer, J Douglas Willms, Adam Gamoran and Ronald G. Ehrenberg from Cornell’s university’s Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, there are several disadvantages of large class size. First, it can intensify the disruptive behavior in the classroom; second it can significantly reduce the amount of time that students can actively interact or engage with each other; third it can eliminate numerous methods by which students are usually assessed e.g. writing assignments and open-ended assessments; fourth it substantially limits the amount of time with which the instructor can spend working with each individual student; fifth, it can reduce the material the instructor can cover; sixth, it can inhibit learning in class by reducing the forms of teaching methods that teachers can employ in classrooms (Jenkins).
Better still, there’s evidence to prove that over-crowded classrooms actually reduce learning. According to the Tennessee Student Teacher Achievement Research (STAR), conducted between 1985 to 1989, random students were chosen from kindergarten to third grade and placed in classes some in small classes and others in large classes. 13 to 17 students in smaller classes performed .015 to .020 which translates to about 5% higher on standardized tests especially in reading as well as Mathematics. Four other studies: one in Great Britain, one in California, one in Canada and one in Wisconsin illustrated increased test scores with smaller classes even though their growth were inconsequential in middle school and high school. However, we could attribute this to teachers not changing their teaching methodology. For instance, lecturing is a highly ineffective way of teaching. Instead, a more student-centered approach would yield positive results in smaller classes.
Malcolm Glad well's 'David and Goliath' is a good book that relates to how class size affects learning. The book’s theme revolves around the general knowledge and history that can make it appear that David’s don’t have what it takes and that Goliaths are unbeatable. Propaganda of all sorts is manipulated by the Goliaths to reinforce this myth. However, on closer study and inspection of the Goliath and its ways, David is then armed with the knowledge and wits necessary to defeat it ("David And Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell – Cliff Notes"). Ironically, in this case, small classes could be referred to as Goliaths while the large classes are the Davids. Students in large classes could match students in small classes or even surpass them if they come better prepared for classes and utilize all the available resources. Having a better teaching staff that is well paid and with a high verbal ability could also be a plus.
The rhetorical appeals of ethos appeal to ethics and refer to a means of convincing credibility of the persuader or someone of the character. Here, the rhetor is therefore perceived by the audience to be either credible or not. The use of the word “ethical” here is contrary to popular understanding. There are two kinds of ethos namely: extrinsic and intrinsic ethos. While the latter is concerned with how the writer speaks or writes, extrinsic is concerned with the experience, education, expertise and the character of the rhetor. Pathos refers to an appeal to emotion also known as a pathetic appeal or rather a way to convince an audience to concur with an argument through means of creating an emotional response. Here pathetic has been used differently from our usual understanding of the word “pathetic.” Pathos is usually used to describe the attempt by the rhetor to appeal to “an audience's sense of identity, their self-interest, and their emotions.” If the rhetor can succeed in creating a common sense of identity with their audience, then we can say the author is using a pathetic appeal. Lastly, logos is a method of persuading an audience by reason, and it appeals to logic or rather, it’s a logical appeal. Observers can recognize that the rhetor is trying to use logos to persuade the audience, but that recognition does not mean that the rhetor is succeeding. The term logos is therefore used to describe or illustrate what kind of rhetorical appeal is being made, and not to evaluate whether an appeal makes sense to us (observers) or not or whether it makes sense to an audience being addressed. With this in mind, we can, therefore, determine whether whatever we’ve just covered lies on pathos, ethos or logos rhetorical appeal (Williams).
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