Jr. Kayley Dinkelmann walked into her first-hour class and sat down at one of the many desks in AP Psychology. This routine may sound very familiar to most high school students, but there is one thing that sets her first hour apart from others. Dinkelmann’s first hour has over 70 students enrolled in it.
West Ottawa High School is trying out a new style in the classroom this year: a large group instruction lecture course. The class provides the opportunity for students to be in a college style class. While this course does emulate some college courses, it is not ideal for all students.
The lack of connection to the teacher is one thing that sets a college class apart from a high school one. “This class is set up to simulate a college class so you have to ask for the teacher’s help,” Dinkelmann said. Instructor Paul McNitt simply cannot approach each student to help daily. AP Psychology is an advanced course. Students become so used to having the teacher approach them that not having that causes them to fall behind until they learn the ropes of the course.
McNitt said the hardest thing about teaching such a large class is having all the students learn all the content. When McNitt agreed to teach a large group style course, he asked himself, “Could I do all the things good high school teachers do while working with 73 students?”
According to current college students, large lecture classes are not as common as they may seem. Dalton Hyma is an alumnus of West Ottawa High School who took traditional AP Psychology with McNitt. He is a fifth-year student at Grand Valley State University. “Regular AP Psychology was very similar to my current classes. My current college classes have around 30 people,” Hyma said.
Hyma said he has only taken one lecture style course throughout his college education, Chemistry 115.
On the other hand, Aubrey Hogan, a junior psychology major at the University of Michigan, said, “My entry level psychology classes were predominantly in a large lecture format, with anywhere from 70 to 300 students.”
The large group AP Psychology is great preparation for entry-level courses similar to Chemistry 115 and Psychology 101 at large universities. In college, students have to learn how to monitor their own education and take responsibility for their learning, and this class helps prepare them.
“I would recommend this class to others. I think it was really smart that West Ottawa is experimenting with the idea of larger classes with this class,” Dinkelmann noted.
“I prefer this class because it provides for me an educational environment in which I can thrive and concurrently prepare for college,” Soph. Owen Runciman said. Runciman is a quiet, studious person who prefers the large group style course because he does not have to worry about doing group projects or being called on.
It is important to take into consideration one’s own learning style before enrolling in this course. There is a large cut in one on one time with the teacher in such a large class. “Be prepared to work,” Dinkelmann advised.