Challenges facing VET: Effective adult class size

Challenges facing VET


The number of students in an adult classroom has been the center of attention for the researchers for a few years. There have been various manifolds in perspectives of research regarding this subject. Some of the researchers suggest smaller class sizes are better whereas others deny the productivity of small classroom sizes and recommend larger classrooms are beneficial with multiple supporting rationales and shreds of evidence. The purpose of my study was to provide evidence-based literature to unveil from already published literature the effect following the number of students present in the classroom.

This research is highly important for the institutional and current system of adult education. Firstly, it is important to consider whether the conservatory is prepared to serve this society of adult learners. There is an increased number of adult learners and it is important to attend their needs and requirements at this stage to prepare them for the forthcoming challenges. Our education system according to some scholars is not prepared for such a huge number of adult learners. Caruth, D. (2014). The numbers of adult students attending colleges and universities have increased from 29% in 1970 to 43% in 2009. (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], n.d.a). Therefore, this is about time to focus on adult learning strategies and their achievements and outcomes to formulate adult learners. Secondly, as educationalists in classrooms and schools if we do not support the evidence that increased resources make a difference to student learning and outcomes, then in no time the resources will be scarce and we have to defend for their need. Lastly, there is a global deficiency of nurses and will continue to be sparse, estimated will be the shortfall of 510,000 nurses in the US by 2030. More adult students will drop out of the higher students. For instance, dropping out of students represents a loss of human capital as well as financial capital and is particularly problematic considering the severe shortage of nursing staff. (Baker, et al., 2019). Not only nursing, but many professional education sectors are also under strain to loosen adult learners if the education system is not operated efficiently.

A review of the literature presents a compilation of research, peer-reviewed journals, non-peerreviewed journals, and books on andragogy and class size effects. The academic databases used were from the online library of various Universities included but were not limited to, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, Education Research Complete, Eric, ProQuest, and Sage Publications Journals such as EBSCO, Wiley Interscience, Elsevier, ScienceOpen, Springer, ProQuest, Books such as Thomas Gale, etc.

Most of the literature supports the student’s numbers in an adult classroom is directly proportional and positively connected to the student’s achievement. Thus, the research recommends reducing the number of students in the classroom to achieve desired outcomes. The ideal number according to the literature has come to finalized between 13-17 in the face to face adult room. Whereas, under 20 in online classes as well to maintain student’s engagement and boost achievement. As mentioned in earlier sections the reduction in classroom students’ numbers must be accompanied by training teachers for professional development, implementation of andragogy principles, adult education principle amalgamated with Bloom’s taxonomy could be implemented along with a reduction in the student number in a classroom for high achievement results.

From the experience and observation, the current practice in the TAFE classrooms is more than 20 students exceeding 30 depending on the resources in the facility. Thus, the recommendation of this research focuses on the reducing number of students under 20 with the other recommendations.

It is analyzed that there is a major problem reported in the literature for the class size reduction that it is empirical and economical. (Hoxby, 2000). As it is expensive to hire more teachers and resources to reduce the number of students. On the hand, small- classroom leads to increased student-teacher time, managed behavior, decent time management, new andragogy teaching strategies implemented which in return enhance cognitive achievement thus students achieve higher grades reducing dropouts. As a result, society will have a high number of educated adults.

Therefore, if there is the righteous focus in reduction on class sizes along with appropriate recommended strategies it would result in recompensating the cost spent on the class reduction by teachers turn over decline due to high satisfaction rates and divided workloads. At the teacher level, small online classes have been keeping working loads at a reasonable level, and thus enabling a sufficient quantity and quality of feedback and student-teacher interaction, as well as adequate time for grading (Sorensen 2015; Tomei 2006). At the student level, meanwhile, online instructors have argued that large classes impede active student-student interactions as well as student-teacher ones. (Arzt 2011; Orellana 2006; Taft et al. 2011).

Not only reducing student numbers in the classroom will be useful merely, but there is also a need for some analogous endeavors along with it. Brookfield (2006) suggested the notion that both students and teachers are in positions of encouraging continuous learning. Students claimed they learned the most in classes that employed the assumptions of andragogy. Therefore, education sectors are encouraged to invest time and effort in strengthening their trainers/educators’ knowledge of andragogy (Chan, 2010; Kiener, 2010; Minter, 2011; Yow, 2010). In another study conducted on web-based distance education (WBDE) for adult learners, Zhang (2009) claimed that learning is more meaningful if both the educator and the learner shared the responsibility for the design of learning goals and objectives, interacted with other members of the class, promoted reflection on experiences, related new examples that made sense to the learner, maintained self-directed learning, and evaluated learning. This shared responsibility is both an opportunity and a challenge for WBDE according to Zhang. Instructors are encouraged, as a result, to consider the needs of the student when assessing the classes and designing the curriculum. Moreover, principles of adult education when coupled with Bloom’s Taxonomy can foster and strengthen student learning. According to a study, support from lecturers and mentors as well as working in a pleasant team were important factors in ensuring students completed the program. When lectures are based on students’ desires to learn the information, the lecture method is effective.

Overall, it is important to focus on such teaching strategies such as, maintaining andragogy teaching methods, implementing adult education principles to prepare students for their professional roles, greater achievement, and prevent dropouts along with the focus on small classroom sizes will be a shrewd move towards the meritocratic society.



Amanda Dunn, S. R. (2002) ‘Teachers’ union wants smaller classes’, Age, The (Melbourne), 7 October, p. 7. Available at: (Accessed: 29 June 2020).

Asadullah, M. N. (2005) ‘The effect of class size on student achievement: evidence from Bangladesh’, Applied Economics Letters, 12(4), pp. 217–221. doi: 10.1080/1350485042000323608.

Bakker, E.J.M., Verhaegh, K.J., Kox, Jos H. A. M., van Der Beek, A.,J., Boot, C., Roelofs, Pepijn D. D. M. and Francke, A.L., 2019. Late dropout from nursing education: An interview study of nursing students’ experiences and reasons. Nurse Education in Practice, [e-journal] 39, pp.17-25. 10.1016/j.nepr.2019.07.005.

Blatchford, P. et al. (2001) Classroom contexts: Connections between class size and within-class grouping. British Journal of Educational Psychology. [Online] 71 (2), 283–302.

Bosworth, R. (2014) ‘Class size, class composition, and the distribution of student achievement’, Education Economics, 22(2), pp. 141–165. doi: 10.1080/09645292.2011.568698.

Cavicchiolo, E. & Alivernini, F. (2018) The Effect of Classroom Composition and Size on Learning Outcomes for Italian and Immigrant Students in High School. ECPS – Educational Cultural and Psychological Studies. [Online] (18), 437–44.

‘Class sizes, work-load too high’ (2014) AEU SA Branch Journal, 46(7), p. 5. Available at: (Accessed: 23 June 2020).

Dykstra Steinbrenner, J. and Watson, L. (2015) ‘Student Engagement in the Classroom: The Impact of Classroom, Teacher, and Student Factors’, Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 45(8), pp. 2392–2410. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2406-9.

Ervin, T. et al. (2018) ‘Determining the Effectiveness of Behavior Skills Training and Observational Learning on Classroom Behaviors: A Case Study’, Social Work Research, 42(2), pp. 106–117. doi: 10.1093/swr/svy005.

(17 July 2020)

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About the Author:

Quratulain Damani (Annie) Nurse Educator, Nursing Industry Expert at BoxHill Institute TAFE, Diploma of Nursing phase II Lead & Registered Nurse Div 1. Epworth Richmond Hospital

The above article is a revised section of the manuscript submitted in completion of TAERES501 – Apply research to training & assessment practice

About this series 

There are many challenges facing VET.  One of them is the need for the industry’s own voice to be shared in a way that adds more light than heat.

This article is one in a series that will seek to explore some of those challenges.   The full series is available from HERE.

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