In Seth Godin’s recent blog post ‘the secret of the five top‘, he explores the reasoning behind why banquet tables are set at numbers of 10. Apparently, this number is for maximum efficiency for serving staff and for table setting. “Bigger” he says, ” you couldn’t reach and smaller there’s no room.” Seth points out that although this is efficient for the banquet organiser, it really isn’t conducive for social interaction. Parties and banquets are all about social interaction yet large tables of ten places barriers in the way of social interaction.
Having attended several wedding and conference banquets in recent years, I understand the issues perfectly. These large tables have the opposite effect. You end up talking only to the three or four people near you whereas you feel alienated from those directly opposite (that is if you can actually see them over the ornate table centre display).
The same is true of the classroom (virtual or physical). Let’s imagine that you have determined that classroom is the best option for at least one element of the learning solution. It may seem more efficient to cram 12, 24 or more people in the same room. After all, you can tell 24+ the same stuff as easily as you can tell 8 …. can’t you? Well, yes, I guess if your classroom is a glorified lecture theater where your learners are passively awaiting the gush of information.
The thing is, we know that’s not effective. Social interaction in the form if discussions, group activities, small group case studies, tutor facilitation, individual consolidation exercises, assessments and individual feedback is. Why then, is all this put at risk by organisations insisting that just because there are enough chairs and the room is big enough, they’ll fill it to the rafters.
Remember this…. When we favour quantity over quality there will be consequences. Can you afford the consequences?