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I read here that some professional/academic organizations (Association of Departments of English, National Council of Teachers of English) have released specific recommendations regarding maximum class size for writing courses.

Are there recommendations from a professional association, accrediting body, or other group, regarding maximum class size for STEM courses? (Either STEM in general, or for specific disciplines. I am most interested in electrical engineering and computer science.)

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    I presume it would vary wildly, since STEM courses include lectures, seminars and labs. A lecture could easily have 150 students, but a seminar may be too full with 15. – Johanna Feb 5 '15 at 2:56
  • @Johanna yes, I would assume such a recommendation would be specific as to the kind of class it was referring to. – ff524 Feb 5 '15 at 2:57
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    Professional associations such as the AAUP, AMS, or APS are worth paying attention to on academic and professional matters such as academic freedom, professional standards, or ethics. On workplace issues such as pay and working conditions, they will at best be silent, and at worst advocate for their members' self-interest. This issue seems to me to fall much closer to being about working conditions. Of course smaller class sizes will often provide some incremental benefit in terms of education. This has to be balanced against economic reality. – user1482 Feb 6 '15 at 4:48
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To maximize creative learning, classes should be small enough for close communication and effective teamwork. One of the basic tenets of system development philosophy is that involving fewer participants tends to reduce complexity and foster innovation. In short, teachers should be encouraged to reduce the size of the classes they manage.

Instead of answering the question, I'll just point out why I think a policy or recommendation on this topic is useless at best, and counter-productive if strictly followed.

Direct recommendations regarding class size are likely to be too specific to be useful in general. The "best" choice in most circumstances is likely to be a compromise between what is practical and cost-effective versus what is ideal for student learning. The instructor and/or their supporting administration are in the best position to determine the optimal class size, ideally with input and feedback from the students.

A quick search turns up a US study and some statistics on the effects of class size provided by the Council of State Governments.

In addition, the following studies might be of interest:

Estimating Class-size Effects using Within-school Variation in Subject-specific Classes

On the relationship of number of students to academic level

Class size effects and the educational production function in Austrian schools

What Do We Know about School Size and Class Size?

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  • Thanks, these are interesting studies about class size, but I'm not sure this answers the question. I still don't know if there is any specific recommendation from a STEM group. – ff524 Feb 5 '15 at 16:46

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