It’s no secret that class sizes have been getting progressively larger in the last few years. Some professors have responded to the problem by assigning fewer take-home essays while assigning more in-class tests. While such a shift reduces the professor’s workload and makes teaching large classes more manageable it also reduces the quality of the educational experience.
For students and professors alike, this is a no-win situation. By reducing the number of take-home essays assigned, students are being short-changed because they are less likely to be taught important skills. Likewise, some professors are forced to structure their courses in a manner contrary to their preferences.
Essay writing skills are important because essays require students to think carefully about a given subject matter, conduct thorough research and ultimately prepare a coherent argument. In doing so, essay writing helps to develop logical reasoning skills that are essential after graduation. In-class tests that require students only to regurgitate a handful of terms or produce a few short answers are not nearly as effective in promoting these necessary skills.
One obvious source of the problem is the abysmally low funding levels post-secondary education receives from the government. If universities received more funding then more professors could be hired, more classes could be made available and class sizes would ultimately be reduced. As it is, students are increasingly being crammed into large, impersonal lecture halls where they have minimal opportunity to interact with the professor in a one-on-one environment.
Funding problems are all the more infuriating given that the University is planning to spend approximately $3 million to renovate University Ave. Sure, some new trees and a freshly paved sidewalk would look nice, but there are far better ways to spend such a large amount of money. The University should consider a re-evaluation of its spending priorities to ensure that money is spent where it is needed most.
There are no easy answers to these problems and no one should expect them to be resolved overnight. However, recognition by the University that these problems are only getting worse and are growing at an increasing rate certainly seems like a good place to start.