Overcrowding is a serious menace faced by educators and schools worldwide. It is a challenge for teachers to pay attention to and facilitate the learning of so many students simultaneously. It has been proven that the ideal class size to enable education is about 15-20. Whereas most classrooms have an average of 30-40 students, if not more. Our classrooms are bursting at the seams, and teachers are increasingly ill-equipped to deal with this situation. Teachers or students are not the cause of this problem, but they are the ones who suffer the consequences.
Identifying the problem
Overcrowding brings with it a host of problems. It is essential to take stock of them first so that teachers can be equipped to deal with them effectively. Here are a few significant problems caused by overcrowding:
- The strain on resources: Schools already have trouble allocating resources for each student. In an overcrowded classroom, the problem becomes even more apparent. Especially with science lab equipment or computer systems, many students end up with the short end of the stick.
- Discipline: More is not always merrier! Every student brings with them their problems and personalities. When they are packed into a small space, the probability of conflicts and disruptive behavior increases. The classroom also gets much louder. This usually makes it harder for teachers to do their job.
- Insufficient facetime: With larger class sizes, it becomes more difficult for the teacher to give small groups or individual students instructions or feedback. It is also more difficult for the teacher to get to know their students. As they cannot identify the strengths and weaknesses of their students, they are also unable to provide more personalized lessons. Those who need more individual attention fall even further behind as teachers cannot devote much time to them.
- Teachers are more stressed-out than ever. When there are more students to deal with, there are also more tests and assignments to correct. Dealing with so many students in a class, and with all the legwork that comes with it can be exhausting for a teacher.
While a real solution to this problem is not possible without institutional support and funding, here’s how teachers can turn this into a glass-half-full kind of situation. No one solution fits everyone, but a few steps like these can aid the learning process:
Optimizing the space
Space is hard to come by in an overcrowded classroom. But you can optimize the space you have by distributing amenities and resources like dustbins, sharpeners, craft material, notice boards, etc., to different corners of the room. This ensures that all the students are not crowded in one area. Chuck everything you don’t need. Also, seldom-used items can be placed in storage until they are required.
Involve the students in deciding how to utilize the space they have. This lets them be more invested in their learning. Once they understand why things are placed in a certain way, they are more likely to be cooperative with each other in using the space.
While students benefit most from one-on-one interaction with their teachers, one must consider the alternatives. More independent learning opportunities can reduce the burden on teachers. They also stimulate curiosity and empower students to seek out learning.
Collaborative projects can also be beneficial. When the teacher cannot cater to every student, they can help each other when they work in smaller groups. Create opportunities for collaborative projects and assignments. Create groups or partners beforehand so that children can help each other learn and grow. Make the classroom more student-centric by designing creative and engaging lessons. When students are active, they can absorb concepts better and develop a healthy attitude towards learning. Wherever possible, use digital tools for collaboration and partnership. Tools like Google Docs allow students to work simultaneously on projects or assignments.
Create your language
It can be challenging for teachers to communicate with each student on every matter. Setting a precedent on how important communication takes place in the class can save a lot of time. Having phrases like ‘Can you repeat…’, ‘I did not understand…’ ‘How do I…’ can help students express themselves efficiently. You can also set aside time to discuss which learning techniques help them better, which creates more problems for them, helps them learn better, etc. It may not be possible for a teacher to interact with every student each day. But having sessions like these help the students express themselves. The teacher also can figure out better strategies to facilitate lessons. The students feel heard and assured that their needs are taken into account. Creating a sense of control in a chaotic, crowded classroom is a massive achievement for both the students and teachers.
Planning and preparation are crucial to managing an overcrowded classroom. Plan short and engaging lessons for the class. It is ideal for displaying the class’s schedule to get to work as soon as they enter the class. Take some time to establish routines and explain rules at the beginning of the year. Having set rules makes the class much more manageable. When students know what they are required to do and why you are less likely to face discipline problems later, create groups or seating charts based on ability levels. For suitable assignments, create mixed ability groups to create more learning and collaborative opportunities. Rotate seats whenever necessary, and make sure to take the children’s preferences into account as well.
Crowded classrooms have become the norm, and it looks like the situation isn’t going to change anytime soon. It is best to adapt to the problem and try to make it the best. Strategies like the ones above can go a long way in promoting learning in a crowded classroom. Are you an educator struggling to encourage learning in an overcrowded classroom? Let us know about your experiences!
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