Teaching Tiny

I have a class this semester with only thirteen students. I don’t like small classes and when I saw the size of this one, I tried to get the class canceled. Much to my dismay, the class ran.


Here’s the thing about ‘teaching tiny’. There’s no hiding and that includes me! If I’m having a bad day, there’s very little room for diversion. It’s like acting in an Off-Off-Off Broadway show, on an off night. One mistake and thirteen people will have a front row view of my flub.


Same goes for my students. If no one raises their hand, there’s 1 chance in 13 that a student will be called on. And that’s if I only ask one question! Suddenly hiding in a hundred student lecture hall is looking pretty good.


I asked my thirteen students, individually because I could, how they felt about a small class. Most said they liked the intimacy and for this group, I’d have to agree. We’re only a few weeks into the semester, and we’ve already checked out one student’s tattoos. We chatted about religion (in a marketing class), and we’re getting pretty good at showing up on time.


That last point is important. One day, ten students were late, leaving three students to carry the load. Now that’s taking this small thing a bit too far.


  • Nickscarnati1114

    I happen to like being in a smaller class because it is easier to get help and attention from the professor, but if everyday there is no participation I could understand why a professor would want to cancel the class.

  • KrisXO

    Personally I attended a school that’s purpose was to have small classes, and I loved it! Having so much attention on you can be dreadful sometimes but the good overshadows the bad. I think having a small class and having the advantage of getting to know students helps. Getting to know each other will make students feel more comfortable and willing to participate. Also having few students allows everyone to stand out, so YOU can switch the attention off of you as a professor. I believe class discussions help students learn more and makes them want to learn.Also everyone would be understanding of having a bad day if they knew you better.

  • MarkUmbro

    Personally, I’ve been on both sides of the classroom in this case. I have had experience with both small classes of under 15 and large classes of over 300. Overall, both classes have their own unique positives and negatives. For example, being in a small class allows me to get more of a one-on-one approach with my teacher, which for the most part, helps me grasp topics better. However, as you talked about in your post, there’s no real way to hide in that type of class. If I’m having an off today, or just straight up don’t want to be in class, i’d much rather be in the class of 300 solely because it’s not nearly as noticeable to the teacher. Ultimately, I think that even though small classes put more pressure on not only students, but teachers as well, in the long run, it ends up being beneficiary to everyone. Large classes leave students with more room to slack off and not pay attention, while in small classes almost force students to be apart of the class and participate.

  • LMast

    I believe students feel this way too. I have always hated being in classes that are too small. Some days I don’t want to be there or I am just not fully prepared and there is no where to hide. But at the same time I think the teacher to student relationship is stronger. I feel that my teachers actually knew who I was and could give each student attention and help when needed. When in a big class I feel that it is those students who work hard to build those teacher to student relationships that thrive in the class. I have been looked at schools based on class size and I noticed that class of about 25- 30 students is the perfect size. It is not too small where each person in the room stands out but it is a sufficient amount to have the student teacher relationship that is necessary to do well in class.

  • WCCmatt

    I feel being in a small classroom setting has both positives and negatives. When you are in a big class there is less intimacy, which can impair learning. When it is difficult to ask a question due to an excess amount of other hands in the air, a student can feel lost on a subject. There is also more room for distraction when there are more people around you. However, in a small class you get more time with the teacher and she can teach at a slower or faster pace if necessary. The teacher can more easily teach to particular student’s specificities. I happen to like smaller classes, as they help me learn better. In an auditorium/ lecture hall, you can basically just sleep in the back because you are relatively unengaged. But in a small 20-30 person class, you feel more lively. Just like seeing a concert in a stadium vs. a small club or arena.

  • Miranda Closson

    I particularly love being in a small sized classroom. While it may be awkward for some people who would rather just blend in and hope the teacher doesn’t notice they are missing class a few days in a row or late all the time, since the teacher will have more people to focus on than just them. Small classes have there advantages; you get to develop a closer relationship with your teacher, the classes seem to be more focused towards the class, and less about the material. The teachers tends to focus on the classes weaknesses to make them stronger. You build a stronger relationship with your classmates, because some people come to class and don’t even interact with anyone, while being in a small setting allows you to get close with everyone. More group activities and more chances to do something fun. I was in a small class for Math in Fall 2013, we all got along great and I definitely built a close relationship with my teacher which I like, because that makes them easier to approach. In all, a smaller classroom setting makes learning easier and more geared towards the students, if they take advantage of it.

  • Samantha Connery

    I would have to agree with WCCmatt by saying that I think there are both positive and negative things about being in a smaller class. Someone like me who has never really been a huge person to participate in things such as a class discussion in say, an English class, and it’s sometimes easy to get out-shined by the typical class favorites aka the ones who always enlighten the professor by starting debates on the teachers opinions, sharing their own, etc. I also do tend to like the intimacy of a smaller class and I have always appreciated when a teacher or professor could know me by name as opposed to taking attendance and looking like they’ve never heard your name before even though you’re halfway through the semester! I do however, think larger class sizes can tend to be more interesting. As weird as this might sound, I felt like I’ve always made more friends/conversation in larger classes (especially if it’s something like say a boring psychology lecture) and also I tend to think in smaller classes the instructors seem to be more careless from what I’ve experienced, which I’m also not a big fan of. I personally like when the instructor is engaged and passionate about what they’re trying to teach and I think you find that in larger classes. So in the end I don’t think I don’t really think I prefer one or the other, just as long as I actually learn and take something away from the class.

  • Gerald Cox

    In my experience small sized classrooms are much, much better. After spending a semester at a school with lectures the size of almost 300 students, everyone is just a face. There is no life or personality to the class. Also, the professor won’t even be able to remember who you are because of multiple 300 student sized classes. Being in a smaller setting allows for better hands on experiences and the ability to get to know both classmates and the professor. It’s more comforting knowing you can go to your professor and they already know who are, and what class you’re in. Although, I would say there might be a breaking point of how small a class can get depending on the course.