CSU WLC Statement on Class Size


April 16, 2004

The current budget crisis in the state of California has been used on some campuses as a justification for raising course enrollment limits in various disciplines. The CSU Foreign Language Council, mindful of the Supplemental Budget Language that directs campuses to spare instruction wherever possible, strongly opposes any outside pressure on departments to raise enrollments.

Modern language pedagogy stresses the communicative approach, wherein students spend the vast majority of classtime conversing on topics relevant to their interests and skill levels. The linguistic elements and cultural input that form the basis of this communication are thus practiced and internalized under the supervision and with the guidance and corrections of the instructor.

Students in communicative language classes often work in pairs or groups, which makes the instructor’s interaction with individual students even more crucial. The instructor’s responsibilities in this mode of instruction include correct modeling of the linguistic elements being practiced as well as individual and group correction. Furthermore, instructors must work with students to develop critical thinking skills necessary to interpret cultural values and institutions. An excessive number of students in the class seriously diminishes each student’s learning experience.

The longstanding benchmark enrollments for our courses reflect sound pedagogical practices that produce the desired learning outcomes. These benchmarks cannot be set aside without proper consultation, and must be modified only with the input of the faculty who best know their own discipline and the pedagogical expectations to which they are held.

Although we acknowledge the difficult budgetary situation, the need for cost-cutting cannot be allowed to undermine the quality of instruction. Increasing course enrollments in language courses is not merely an additional burden for the teacher; far more importantly, it prevents the students from experiencing sufficient meaningful practice in the language and results in a dangerous shift in the nature of the learning experience.

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