Our enrollment cap for our first year writing course is 28. Sometimes the powers that be add another for 29, but you get the idea. It's a big class, way bigger than any of our professional organizations sees as a "best practice."
The numbers are a problem in big, obvious ways. But they're also a problem in little ways. My problem today is with focus.
I collected some journals and quizzes from the class today. The journals are frequent short writing assignments (most don't write a full page) to which I respond mostly with short, positive comments in the margins and a quick 1-10 grade. (At least the short, positive comments are my goal.) All sorts of writing research suggests that short writing assignments that someone responds to are a good practice in all sorts of classes, and especially in writing classes. I'm convinced by the research, so I use them in my classes.
I can do 12 of these in short order, well-focused and not too frustrated. And if I saw that I had only a few more to grade, I'd power through the last four or five easily enough. But when I look and see that I have more to grade than I've graded, I find it difficult to keep my focus. And that means that I stop grading and write a whiny blog post or something instead of powering through.
Okay, now I have to get back to that last part of the stack. And then the quizzes.
Bonus: Almost all the students are now actually citing their source in the journal! YAY! (Yes, I care. Citing sources should be habit for assignments in college.)