Anyone elses kids seem overwhelmed by large class sizes?

<p>My Ds first classes were yesterday. She is in some honors classes that are small (20 or less) but has 2 non honors classes that are 100+ . She went to a very small math/science school her last 2 years of HS - 60 in her graduating class. After the small very pressure heavy HS she wanted a big college where she was a 'number' not a 'name' but I think she is in shock a little right now. I'm interested to hear how other's kids adjusted. (I know - I worry to much - I just expected her to be all enthused after the 1st day instead of sounding frazzled).</p>

<p>Usually those big classes are purely lecture based survey classes. Usually entry level, introductory courses- not topics where there would be a lot of discussion involved. They will have the three big hall class meetings, and then a fourth class that meets in small groups to go over specifics/answer questions (those small sections are usually led by TA's). Many times, the students can even "watch" the big lectures on their computers or TV.</p>

<p>I actually used to enjoy some of the big classes. I don't know why- maybe because of all the new faces (I'm a people person) everytime I went to class?</p>

<p>They are chem and bio classes. The labs are in small groups. But that is another thing she is frazzled by - they are assigned in groups of 4 for labs and she is not used to having her grades depend on other people - especially people she is 'assigned' to and has no clue of their academic abilities. (she has done group work before but in HS got to choose her partners - though she did have a couple of experiences in her regular HS of doing everyone elses part of a project - probably the root of her worry). Just all new to her - I am sure she will adjust. I'm just doing the worrying mother thing.</p>

<p>My son took chem and bio in a big setting like that as well. But he also got involved in "study groups" with other classmates. VERY IMPORTANT to do this.</p>

<p>I don't know about the lab stuff. He did say this about grading curves...</p>

<p>His grade at any point was based on a curve of the class- that is, the mean score on any given test becomes a "C" and the rest of the grades follow a bell curve. So say on the first test everyone did poorly, but he did pretty good- he'd have an "A" at that point. As time went on, though, what constituted an A would change with every test. Typically he always started out with an A after the first exam because there was a larger pool of "average" and "below average" level students. But then all the kids in the lower half of the class would drop, since they all made Cs and below on the first test. </p>

<p>At that point, he is now being compared to the top half of students, and the curve gets tougher and tougher as the semester wears on. Typically by the last exam of the semester, the curve is brutal because only the best students are left to begin with, and everyone is pulling out all the stops to get the best grade possible on that that exam. So whereas a 90 might have been an A on the first exam, a 94 might be a B on the last exam.</p>

<p>So the moral of the story is, get the highest possible grade on the first exam, since it will be your best chance to do well. Don't squander that opportunity.</p>

<p>Thanks for the info on the curves - it is interesting - her original high school she never had to do big exams because students with As got to waive the finals. The school she went to the last 2 years had brutal tests and exams so she should be prepared for that. But the curve will be a new thing to her. I will have to ask her if they explained how that works there. I guess if the kids not doing well drop then it will solve the problem if any of her assigned partners are not very capable.</p>

<p>Several comments about large classes. All of my large lecture classes were supplemented by small recitation sections where students could more easily ask questions about lecture content, class assignments etc. My son'f few lecture classes used the same format. Does your daughter's class have a recitation section?</p>

<p>Re labs. Yes most labs work in 3-4 student groups but in most cases each student is required to prepare their own lab report. My chem, physics, bio and microbio labs all worked in this way.</p>

<p>The key to the successful class is the quality of the instructor rather than the size of the class in most instances. And by next year the large lecture classes will be largely a thing of the past.</p>

<p>No - no recitation section just the labs. She was signed up for a history class that had a small recitation group but she switched to the bio class to try and make sure she gets all her required science classes done in a timely fashion. Hopefully all lab reports etc will be individual and the instructors will be good.</p>

<p>I remember being a bit overwhelmed by those large classes too. But after awhile, I also remember kind of liking having that one class where I just had to go listen and take notes - didn't have to worry about standing out, discussing, etc. But I can understand the shockeroo your D had that first day!!!</p>

<p>Re: group work. My kids have always hated group work - my older two are all A's type students and had a hard time doing group work where they had to rely on others to contribute/complete work. In the long run, I think this is a GOOD thing to have to adjust to. In the work world, you often have to rely on others to make a project go - the group work will give her a chance to exercise leadership skills, tact, motivating the group and dealing with all that is involved to make the end product happen.</p>

Re: group work. My kids have always hated group work - my older two are all A's type students and had a hard time doing group work where they had to rely on others to contribute/complete work.


Sounds just like my daughter.

In the long run, I think this is a GOOD thing to have to adjust to. In the work world, you often have to rely on others to make a project go - the group work will give her a chance to exercise leadership skills, tact, motivating the group and dealing with all that is involved to make the end product happen.


Good point - she already seems to be taking charge a little. But I have to admit - love her to pieces but 'tact' is not her middle name!!</p>

<p>You made me smile swimsmom ! </p>

<p>I know it's going to be tough to be on the receiving end of these phone calls in a couple of weeks myself - you SO want the first few days to run smoothly...!</p>

<p>My S goes to a big u. with large science classes (250). I think he got more out of the labs and the review (recitation?) classes with the TA's. He always had a study partner for the homework and lab assignments. I think working with another kid was the only way to get through it successfully. </p>

<p>I went from a small nothing high sch. in the middle of nowhere to a big state U. with those big classes (Chem and Anatomy for me). I was overwhelmed but soon figured out that lots of other kids were too. We all just hung together and muddled through. All praise to the mighty one has ever been more happy than me and my "c" in organic chemistry!</p>

<p>D picked a small, intense LAC. No TAs -- small classes, and all labs and conferences are with faculty. She sought this environment when narrowing down the college choices, and it seems to have been a good choice for her. (Princeton Review just gave her college #1 for classroom experience.)</p>

<p>celloguy - I thought a smaller school might be better for my D. But the HS she went to (a state math & Science residential school) was so small and the powers that be were in the kids business all the time (to a rather creepy degree) that she wanted the opposite for college.</p>

<p>abasket - post back in a couple of weeks :) - you are right I am so hoping everything will run smoothly. She has lived on campus a couple of weeks before classes sarted and it was much quieter - I think the sheer number of people is a little overwhelming right now.</p>

<p>packmom - I am sure she will adjust also - probably quicker than Mom will :)</p>

My son was the same way about wanting to be a "number". He is a social animal and being in a HUGE school is right up his alley- the kid doesn't know a stranger, and with 50K students, his college is a playground. </p>

<p>I don't know if the way his classes have curved is indicative of every school. I think in a big public college, where the kids can "declare" any major they want starting out, the school is basically trying to weed the bottom half out of certain majors. You can't have 50000 students all in premed, architecture, or engineering. So they whittle down the classes. It's actually not a bad scheme- not all those students are capable of doing the work and it's better to know in Calc I or Chem I that you're not cut out for all those higher level courses.</p>

<p>I'm surprised if she doesn't have a small group setting to go along with the large lectures.<br>
Again, my son enjoyed studying with other folks (especially the girls I think). Tell your daughter to get in with some study groups- it's a good way to make friends, too.</p>

<p>swimmom - Your post brought back memories of freshman Chem at State U. It was taught in an auditorium and the class was larger than my entire HS! Six versions of each test were used so no adjacent test taker had the same questions. During introductions the Professor deadpanned "I aim for a mean of 50 so I get maximum dispersion of test scores."</p>

<p>Nonetheless I enjoyed this better than small classes where the "right answer" was essentially the answer the Professor favored. Study groups make the coursework go easier, and group labwork teaches wonderful lessons about choosing work partners! In short, I wouldn't worry too much about this. Your D will look back on the experience one day and smile!</p>

<p>Many schools have large science lectures - even U. Chicago, where my D is.</p>

<p>Regarding lab grades, at most schools, the grade depends largely on the quality of the lab reports. The instructors are not brain dead - they know you can't hold a group responsible for bad technical results, and they also pay attention to who is doing what in the group. But they do know how to read the lab reports - if the results were bad, a good discussion of why that might be can get an A.</p>

<p>The curve grading and attrition phenomenon mentioned above does not occur everywhere. It is true that any course of some difficulty will have some losses early on, but those usually happen the first week or so, when another class can still be added in replacement. Of course this may vary by school.</p>

<p>Finally, not all students need study groups. It depends on the kid and the material. And all too often these study groups are more social than studious.</p>

<p>Your mileage may vary.</p>

<p>Large lecture courses can be great -- and in my opinion, the larger the better. Beyond about 50 people, there isn't going to be any discussion in class anyhow. So it really doesn't matter whether there are 60 or 600 students in a class. Six hundred is actually better if you're looking for someone to share their notes with you.</p>

<p>Many large lecture courses have extensive office hours, with lots of TAs available for help. Also, your daughter will probably find that multiple people on her dorm floor are taking the same course. There's an instant study group.</p>

<p>My daughter has signed up for one class that has 1600 students in it (Cornell's introductory psychology class, which is billed as the largest lecture course in the world). She's looking forward to it. </p>

<p>There is absolutely nobody in this gigantic class who is required to take it. Some people can satisfy distribution requirements or major prerequisites by taking it, but there are also other alternatives. This class is so big because people love it -- and they have loved it for more than 35 years, since the current professor began to teach it. The attraction (besides the intrinsically interesting subject matter) is the very well known and charismatic professor, plus (to be brutally frank) a straightforward, predictable grading system. What's not to like?</p>

<p>One word of guidance about large lecture classes: If they are held in large auditoriums that have balconies, never sit in the row of seats just under the balcony edge. The people in the front row of the balcony will prop their feet there, and if it's wet outside, their shoes will drip water on your head.</p>

But that is another thing she is frazzled by - they are assigned in groups of 4 for labs and she is not used to having her grades depend on other people - especially people she is 'assigned' to and has no clue of their academic abilities.

I agree with what abasket said about this. Out in the working world your raises and promotions depend on what you accomplish, and what you accomplish depends on the assistance of others. Being able to tactfully motivate others is a skill much more important to her future then a great writeup she does alone to an experiment she won't even remember in a year. You might want to gently explain this to your daughter.</p>

<p>(not to sidetrack the subject but..) Marian your daughter will LOVE Psych 101. I sat in on all the lectures w/o taking the course and it was great. I had a free period during that time slot, and was already taking 5 classes for my engineering courseload, so couldn't add this course. I also didn't find out the reputation of it until the first few weeks of school from my Artsie (CAS) friends. So I just went and sat with them in the lectures. I didn't do the large amount of reading however, I was not that wierd.. :-) This was 25 years ago and James Maas was already a legend.</p>

<p>I try not to post too much about my outdated experiences in current threads, but I was a shy good student from a large HS who didn't talk in class in HS and sure wasn't about to start in college. So the large lectures, and I did have them through all four years though in fewer numbers, were never a problem for me. Plus they did give opportunities for more people to connect with to study.</p>

<p>My favorite large lecture was "wines for credit" a wine class in the hotel school, not to be confused with some evening extracurricular wine thing, where a large part of your grade was determined on whether someone was sitting in your assigned seat each day. Easy to get someone to fill in for you if you couldn't make the lecture, they got to do the experiments. Ah those were the days.. Yes these are the types of classes that made me pick Cornell for engineering over schools like MIT.</p>

<p>Tell her you love her….</p>

<p>Encourage her.... let her know she can call day or night to talk it over…</p>

<p>let her know you are and will be there for her no matter the time or circumstances….</p>

<p>Try not to let it upset you and if it does try not to show you are upset…</p>

<p>Try to get her to talk about what she likes about school….</p>

<p>Tell her you love her….</p>