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Chambliss Addresses Class Size in The Chronicle of Higher Education


A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Are Small Classes Best? It’s Complicated,” included insights offered by Professor of Sociology Daniel Chambliss, co-author of How College Works. In his book, Chambliss devoted an entire chapter, “The Arithmetic of Engagement,” to this issue.

The March 21 article began by asking, “What is the connection between class size and quality, anyhow? And if small classes really are better, how do you define what counts as small?”

Chambliss took a different approach, pointing out that “most analyses of class size come at the question all wrong … they reflect what’s happening at an institution, not what’s happening to individual students.” He suggested, “If a college wants to give all students the best experience possible, the trade-off between offering students small classes and giving them access to the courses they want is important.”

He added, “On some campuses, so many students take and talk about a particular big class that it becomes a shared experience, uniting students in the way that sporting events and parties — but less frequently academic offerings — can do.”

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