Explaining the effects of class size on faculty and students

Maggie Aleman Manrara, Florida International University


This study explored the effects of class size on faculty and students. Specifically, it examined the relationship of class size and students' participation in class, faculty interactive styles, and academic environment and how these behaviors affected student achievement (percentage of students passing). The sample was composed of 629 students in 30 sections of Algebra I at a large, urban community college. A survey was administered to the students to solicit their perceptions on their participation in class, their faculty interaction style, and the academic environment in their classes. Selected classes were observed to triangulate the findings. The relationship of class size to student participation, faculty interactive styles, and academic environment was determined by using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). A significant difference was found on the participation of students related to class size. Students in smaller classes participated more and were more engaged than students in larger classes. Regression analysis using the same variables in small and large classes showed that faculty interactive styles significantly predicted student achievement. Stepwise regression analyses of student and faculty background variables showed that (a) students' estimate of GPA was significantly related to their achievement (r = .63); (b) older students reported more participation than did younger ones, (c) students in classes taught by female, Hispanic faculty earned higher passing grades, and (d) students' participation was greater with adjunct professors. Class observations corroborated these findings. The analysis and observational data provided sufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that small classes were not always most effective in promoting achievement. It was found that small classes may be an artifact of ineffectual teaching, actual or by reputation. While students in small classes participate and are more engaged than students in larger classes, the class-size effect is essentially due to what happens in instruction to promote learning. The interaction of the faculty with students significantly predicted students' achievement regardless of class size. Since college students select their own classes, students do not register for classes taught by faculty with poor teaching reputation, thereby leading to small classes. Further studies are suggested to determine reasons why classes differ in size.

Subject Area

Community colleges|School administration|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Manrara, Maggie Aleman, "Explaining the effects of class size on faculty and students" (2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3268655.