After information concerning a new academic guideline was released last week, Oklahoma Christian University faculty have varying feelings concerning the 15-student class size limit.
Though Chief Academic Officer Scott LaMascus said the guideline will not function as a hard and fast rule, Oklahoma Christian professors questioned the impact it might have on some degree programs, according to psychology professor Bobby Kern.
“What does this mean for our programs, especially our smaller programs?” Kern said. “What does this mean for a lot of our senior, capstone-type courses? There was some concern over in other departments that have specific certifications as well. Initially, everyone I talked to at least had some level of concern.”
While the psychology and family science department typically has 45 to 60 students enrolled, Kern said many of his upper-division courses would not reach the 15-student minimum. According to Kern, many of his students are going to have to pay attention as certain courses may not be offered every year.
“We’re going to have to rethink how we offer things,” Kern said. “For family science, we have a certification through the National Council of Family Relations, and [students] have to take specific courses. So, substitutions or one-on-one practicum options won’t work. In order to maintain our certification, we’ve got to offer courses that have been approved.”
Education professor Joanie Gieger teaches multiple required classes with fewer than 15 students enrolled. She said she wonders if there is a way to evaluate the total number of students a faculty member teaches and average the number across the year.
“Research says that small class sizes contribute to deeper learning for students,” Gieger said. “We are able to have deeper discussions, everyone is able to participate in those discussions and it can be more learner-driven versus teacher-driven when we have those discussions. I think there is a certain number you can get to where the number is too low, but I also think significant learning can happen in smaller classes.”
At last week’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, senators held an extensive discussion concerning the impact the guideline will have on students. During the meeting, SGA Vice President Taylor Dotson asked students to raise their hand if they had ever taken an Oklahoma Christian course with less than 15 students—nearly every attendee did so.
“One of my concerns with this is that if we’re having to take substitute classes a lot to make sure we graduate on time, I feel like our degrees are not going to be as specific as they should be,” senior Molly Patterson said. “I feel like our degrees are going to be a lot more broad, not delving as deep as we go into our field of study.”
While Kern said he was initially worried about the change and still feels concerned to a certain degree, he said he would caution students and faculty alike from getting too angry too quickly.
“I think it’s going to require some work, students are going to have to pay close attention to their schedules and faculty advisors are going to have to be more diligent when we offer things and how we offer them,” Kern said. “But I do think that faculty and administration alike want our students to succeed, and we’re not going to do anything, hopefully, that’s going to impede that.”
According to Gieger, everyone potentially impacted by this guideline should contribute to its implementation.
“As a graduate, professor and parent of a student here, I’m hoping that everyone will be able to contribute to this discussion on the number of students,” Gieger said. “I think a really important thing is that all stakeholders, students, faculty, staff and administration all have a seat at the table in discussing this.”