Increase instructional efficiency

Increasing efficiency of instruction enables a teacher to effectively instruct a greater number of students. This makes it possible for a school to offer a a wider variety of courses and for a greater number of students to benefit from each course. In the face of decreased funding, increasing the efficiency of a course can be an alternative to eliminating it.

This post explores a few techniques that reduce the educational impact of an increase in the ratio of students to teachers. The techniques can also be used in the absence of increasing class sizes to free up teacher time for other purposes. The techniques improve, rather than sacrifice, educational quality.

Most of the techniques discussed require that students have access to individual computers (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or other alternative) in class. The costs associated with acquiring and supporting this technology can be significantly offset by the increase in the ratio of students to teachers.

Administer assessments electronically

Administering assessments online can reduce both resource usage and the time required to score responses. Multiple choice questions administered online can be scored automatically and the scores can be automatically transferred to a student information system. Each student can be provided with feedback for each question that is specific to her answer. This feedback needs to be developed only once, not once per student or once per year. A separate post describes how data from electronically administered assessments can be easily computed and used to improve instruction.

Administering the same multiple choice assessment with machine readable paper (commonly Scantron) requires the purchase of special paper, the use of a machine for scoring, manual input of scores into a student information system and review of each problem with each class. Each of these is inefficient, especially review of each problem with each class. Targeted feedback and automated statistical analysis of student responses greatly reduces the number of problems that must be individually reviewed in class.

Online administration of assessments also eases the use of more advanced techniques such as anonymous scoring by peers.

Use peer scored assessments

Peer scoring of assessments can be a valuable educational experience. Students become aware of the criteria by which their work is judged. When this criteria is explicit and appropriate, students can use their knowledge of it to improve their own work. Assessment by multiple peers can reduce the significance of bias and errors in scoring. Peer assessment of carefully crafted assignments can replace teacher assessment while increasing the educational value of the assignments.

Provide tools for persistent student interaction

Encouraging students to interact with each other online transforms questions that might previously have been posed to a teacher, or not posed at all, into productive discussions among students. An online discussion board monitored by a teacher encourages productive student discussions into which the teacher can step when appropriate. Archived discussions of particular topics may be of value to future classes. Many students relish opportunities to share their knowledge. When this enthusiasm is harnessed it can benefit an entire class and beyond.