Faculty Senate Subcommittee for Writing and Reading Position Statement on Class Size

In times of decreased operating budgets and limited resources, the Subcommittee for Writing and Reading urges administrators and department chairs to resist seeing increases in class size as an easy fix to budget problems. Research has shown that increases in class size have serious negative consequences for student literacy and learning (Astin, 1993; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; McKeachie, 1980). In a 2002 faculty writing survey conducted by the Subcommittee for Writing and Reading, 58.3% of CSUS faculty said that large class enrollment was a primary challenge they face in incorporating writing assignments in their classes. According to the National Council of Teachers of English Position Statement on Class Size, “all students have the right to ample opportunities to engage in writing activities and frequent opportunities for meaningful oral interaction in the classroom.” Instructors at CSUS have significant teaching loads, and class size increases will mean less writing, less reading, less critical thinking, and less time for interaction with students. Class size affects more than just reading and writing: as class size increases, there is less opportunity for active learning activities, meaningful discussion, and personalized attention from instructors. Increases in class size also have a negative effect on student retention and student satisfaction.

According the University Policy Manual, “CSUS is committed to the development of sound reading and writing skills.” Improving student writing skills is also listed among the top objectives for academic departments by the Council for University Planning, and the Faculty Senate, in its Advisory Writing Standard, states that "writing and reading skills, both in general and appropriate to the discipline of major, are key learning outcomes for all CSUS graduates." According to the CSUS Strategic Plan, improving writing skills is a top priority for the students, for the institution, and for the community: the Strategic Plan states that employers have indicated “CSUS graduates lack the writing skills to perform effectively in their jobs.” Increases in class size—especially if they become permanent—may undermine CSUS’ strong commitment to reading and writing, and have long-term negative effects for both the students and the community. Class size increases may also undermine the State Legislature's Supplemental Report Language, which mandates the preservation of instruction as the highest priority when implementing cuts.

When class size increases are inevitable due to budget cuts, administrators and department chairs should give special consideration and protection to writing-intensive courses and courses in which reading, writing, and discussion are the primary focus. The Subcommittee for Writing and Reading recommends that when class sizes are increased due to budget cuts, these increases should be temporary and not permanent changes.

 

References

 

Astin, A.W. (1993). What matters in college? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McKeachie, W.J. (1980). Class size, large classes, and multiple sections. Academe, 66, 24-27.

 

National Council of Teachers of English. More than a number: Why class size matters. Online: http://www.ncte.org/about/over/positions/level/coll/107620.htm?source=gs

Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.