Recently, the use of lecturing system in universities is being questioned for its efficiency. The dilemma is that should lecturing system in University be replaced with small classes. Small classes, as described by David Daniels in his article “College Lectures: Is Anybody Listening?” emphasis on having lesser students in a class. This encourages more interaction between lecturer and students, aiming to build active learners and the enable lectures to be sure of the progress of their students. He also stated that students now are lacking of listening skills meaning that lecturing system is no longer effective for them, showing the need of change to small classes system in educating students. Lecturing system on the other hand is a traditional way of teaching used in tertiary studies. The number of students handled by a lecturer is much more compared to small class system. We should continue using lecturing system as it show more advantages than using small classes in the sense of being more cost effective, building more independent students, decreasing absentees and by being fair in grading students.
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First, usually the numbers of students in universities are massive which small class system will not be able to fit in all students. However, if lecturing system is replaced by small classes in universities, it would be very costly seeing that more classes need to be opened for lessons to be conducted. An excellent example is more manpower is needed to operate. According to the former president of United States, he states that an average of 1.7 billion dollars is needed to train more lecturers to conduct small classes nationwide yearly (Viadero, 1998). Many universities are lacking of lecturers and using small classes will need the university to hire more lecturers to facilitate lectures. This means universities will have to fork out a lot of money to overcome the shortage of manpower. Electric bills will shoot up too as teaching aid such as projectors and computers as well as air conditioning to keep the temperature in room favorable temperature will need large electric consumption. All these factors will contribute in a larger operating cost. What do universities do to cover the cost? Increasing fees charged on students! This will cause education to be costly and unaffordable for those families earning lower income. The consequence of this issue will be chances of financially poor students getting higher education to be slimmer. Worse though, if the management chooses to hire non experienced part time lecturers to reduce the operating cost, small class will as well be meaningless. Lecturing system will save on this problem as this system enables a lecturer to handle more students. This will also solve the problem for universities where spaces are very limited as a hall will be enough to fit in all students for one lecture. Thus, continue using lecturing system not only provide a more affordable education for students but enable the campus to generate more profit as operating cost is reduced and student intakes are increased due to the better organizing of space.
Next, lecturing system will build more independent students. David Daniel claims that small classes enable lecturers know the progress of their students and help them improve. Yet, this situation causes students to rely on lecturers. What are they, the students without their lecturers? Will they be able to survive in the harsh life in work when they are graduated their studies? This is especially an issue among Malaysian students. They tend to blame lecturers for low grades. However, is the problem with the student or education system itself? Malaysian students are introduced to at least 11 years of small classes system before proceeding to pursue their higher education. If this issue occurs, this simply means there is a critical error in the system. Students are used to be spoon-fed with whatever they need to know and not by discovering with their own effort. Demolishing small class students used to have for their higher education will be painful for them but students must start to realize that they are actually responsible for their own studies. The duty of lecturers is just to guide them in tertiary level education. Only then students whom are used to be spoon-fed will be forced to look for additional information from various sources for their subjects. Teaching a man to fish is better than giving him a fish every day. Indirectly, it might shape more knowledgeable student as they will be exposed to irrelevant facts which seems to be not useful in the progress of looking what they want. Who knows if the information is applicable someday? Hence, lecturing system will be able to shape more quality students whom can independently improve themselves in their field of study.
Furthermore, lecturing system is useful is decreasing absentees in class. David Daniels proposes that question and answer section in small classes can help to shape more active students. However, is this method applicable to all students? Intrinsic students who do not like to voice out will not feel comfortable being asked and pressured by questions from lecturers. However, these groups of students are being paid most attention by lecturers as they are too quiet and these lead more questions to be directed to them. The discomfort might cause them feel afraid to enter class. In lecturing system quiet students will instead get the sense of security because the large group of student does not allow lecturers to question students individually but as a group instead. The same situation applies to weaker students. Lecturers tend to emphasis their questions on them in small classes. It is true that lecturers are trying to help them as what David Daniels says to improve their analytical skill, but students at this age are egocentric. How would they feel if they do not know how to answer a question in front of their classmates? They might feel ashamed for the rest of the period and their emotion will keep them away from concentrating. Worse still, they might fear being asked questions again. Involved students might be stressed out and try to escape from the threatening situation. Furthermore, students studying in universities are basically at their teenage age. This is the stage where they are most attracted by the opposite sex psychologically. In lecturing system, a larger crowd provides more ‘targets’ for them to prey on. Such situation might motivate them to attend class more frequently as they might want to keep a good image in front of someone they are attracted to. Besides, they might work hard in order to get good results to be proud of. Eventually, lecturing system not only decrease absentees rate but lead students to a higher achievement as well.
Moving on, lecturers teaching in lecture system are fairer in grading coursework compared to lecturers from small classes. According to David Daniels, small classes allow professors to discover who knows what before final examinations. However, what is the purpose of doing so? Allowing the lecturers to set questions according to what their students know? This will not help the students but give them an illusion of the marks they get. They thought they know a lot from the high grade they achieve but the fact is just the opposite. Since students result reflect on lecturer’s reputation, we cannot deny that there will be some irresponsible lecturers that would use this way to ‘help’ students get better grades so they might be proud too. A win-win situation? In lecturing system, lecturers might not know the progress of their students but this enable them to set exam questions based on what students should know and not what students already know. If students did badly in their examination, it serves them right for not studying hard enough. They will eventually learn from their mistake and do better next time. It will always be better than pampering the students by helping them through examinations. Another good example will be the rate of grade inflation. Based on the statistic provided by The New York Times, the rate of grade inflation in private colleges using small class system is 38 percent higher than public colleges using lecturing system. Corresponding to this, we can say that the good relationship built between lecturers and students in small class system affect the judging ability of lecturers to grade fairly. Human are by nature emotional. Philosophically, emotion overrides the rationality part of a human. Thus, very often lecturers gave marks higher than what the student deserves especially for those who are closer and have a better relationship with the lecturer. On the other hand, lecturing system can avoid this situation from happening. The large crowd a lecturer is handling will build a barrier between the student and lecturer. Saving on the relationship part, lecturer will be able to judge student’s coursework fairly. The larger number of coursework submitted also enable lecturers to compare the work and give marks accordingly. Therefore, those who really put in effort to do their assignment will deserve a better grade and be motivated to keep on with their hard work.
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Finally, lecturing system should not be replaced by small class system in universities as it obviously show more advantage by being more cost effective and beneficial to students. However, there are improvements that can be done for the system to be more effective. Universities should make sure hired lecturers are up to certain requirements and are able to facilitate the lesson effectively. While for the problem of student lacking listening skills and concentration as proposed by David Daniels, actions such as giving short breaks at certain time and projecting some short clips featuring jokes from subject of student’s interest can be taken. This can help to regain student’s concentration. Based on the reasons proposed, lecturing system is still the better way to be used in universities compared to small class system.
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