Small is the new big

If you have been reading The Advance, viewing our website, or participating in any of our college events over the past two years, you have likely encountered the claim “Small is The New Big.” This phrase came out of our strategic planning sessions, and is a key concept in our outreach to new students. This phrase also says a great deal about the unique learning environment at Trinity.

We are small, but big things happen here all the time. Lives are transformed through the grace and love found in Christ, and students seek and find their vocational calling. Allow me to share with you some of the amazing benefits our students encounter on a daily basis due to our wonderfully small size.

Research has been conducted for years on the benefits of smaller class sizes in K-12 education. But only recently has more research examined the benefits in higher education. This research confirms my enthusiasm about the educational process here at Trinity and the ways we have done an amazing job providing our students with a superior academic experience.

First let me give you some facts:

  • This spring, 88% of our classes have fewer than 25 students.
  • Our faculty to student ratio at Trinity is 1:7.
  • 100% of the 2009 graduating class are placed in employment or graduate school.
  • For each of the past three years, students have presented their research at professional conferences, alongside graduate students and professors.
  • 92% of the 2010 graduating class are placed in employment or graduate school.
  • 100% of our classes at Trinity are taught by professors, not graduate assistants or teaching assistants.

So what benefits do our students receive by being in an intimate seminar style-learning environment? A study entitled  “Impact of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Higher Education*” identifies a number of statistically significant findings; let me highlight a few that have particular relevance to our learning environment at Trinity:

  1. The amount of critical and analytical thinking: Our students have to be quick on their feet, since they can’t hide in big auditoriums. Our faculty know when students have or haven’t prepared for class, and they help our students express themselves well in group settings.
  2. Instructor availability outside of class: Faculty take advising and mentoring seriously, whether before, during or after a Trinity degree. Faculty write heartfelt, personal letters of recommendation for students as they go on to graduate programs and careers.
  3. Timeliness of feedback to students: Faculty know when students aren’t in class, and they follow up with them after absences. And instead of just grading papers, they invest in students’ futures through robust and timely feedback.
  4. Evaluations and feedback of student work: The intimate knowledge faculty have of student work allows them to keep mentoring students toward greatness, and guide them to successful careers.
  5. Daily preparedness required for class: The small class sizes at Trinity don’t allow our students the opportunity to get lazy and come unprepared. Students regularly remark that they find they have grow from good to excellent scholars during their years at Trinity.

Trinity provides an incredible opportunity for students. I am so pleased that word is spreading about our programs, and prospective students and families are beginning to recognize the wonderful environment we have for learning. Please keep referring students and supporting us in this critical educational mission.

* Impact of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Higher Eduation, Monkes, Schmidt, University of Richmond, September 2010.