Are Small Class Sizes Better for Student Outcomes?
Let’s play a little game. Class A has 30 students, whereas Class B has 15 students. The students have equal ability and behavior, and the teachers are carbon clones of one another. Which do you believe will outperform, Class A or Class B? Class B, as you might expect, will perform better because it has a smaller number of students. But why is it that smaller class sizes result in better learner performance? In this post, we’ll look at four reasons why small class sizes result in improved student performance.
It lessens the workload of teachers. It takes a lot of effort to be a teacher. It will be one of the most difficult things most individuals will ever undertake in their lives. But what exactly is it that makes it so difficult? Consider having to manage 30 employees at the same time while also educating them, monitoring their interactions, and keeping them safe. This is what it’s like to be a teacher. As a teacher, you must instruct, assess, remediate, address bad behavior, arbitrate conflicts, and so on. If you lower class size by half, it makes a teacher’s job much easier, and as a result, they can do a better job.
It reduces the amount of chaos in the classroom. Consider a typical class. 30 students of varied temperaments and intelligence sharing the same area. When there is a high density of people, there is sure to be more noise, more disputes, and less comfort. In no way am I implying that noise in the classroom is a bad thing; in fact, it often indicates that learning is taking place, particularly during group activities. However, with noise comes less privacy and, for others, the inability to focus or think. There would be increased privacy during group work with a lower class size, which could lead to higher levels of learner focus, which should lead to higher levels of learner performance. It also makes learners more comfortable because they have more room to move around and personal space. Furthermore, fewer learners may result in fewer debates and disagreements.
Increased learner engagement. When students have a positive relationship with their teachers, they are more likely to be engaged in their studies, which leads to improved performance. This occurs for two reasons. For one thing, fewer class sizes result in higher levels of student performance, which gets ingrained in the classroom culture. Learners are anticipated to be great achievers, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing them to be intensely interested in their studies. Two, in small-classroom settings, educators have more time to create meaningful relationships with their students, which drives them to become more engaged.
More one-on-one time is required. For many years, I was a special education teacher, and I could always tell which classrooms had the most referrals for special education services. It was in the classrooms where the number of students exceeded 15. I’m talking about 20, 25, or 30 students. Why? Because educators had the least amount of time to deal with challenging students in these classrooms, they fell further behind. They were unable to ponder and come to the conclusion that the child had not received the type of attention that was required, therefore they constantly thought that the youngster had some sort of defect. They couldn’t believe that, through no fault of their own, they were agents of a system that had failed to meet the needs of the children.
They would eventually enroll the child in the RTI (response to intervention) procedure, which is designed to assist struggling students in catching up academically. Of course, nothing changed because the underlying problem was the enormous class size. Frustrated, educators and parents would have the child evaluated for disabilities, and many of them were found to be eligible for special education programs. I constantly objected since, in my professional judgment, the child did not have a learning handicap; they had just fallen behind in their academics.
Academic underperformance as a result of years of poor instruction is not a learning disability; it is a sign of an education system that crowds 25+ students into one classroom with one instructor and couldn’t care less if they succeed. Assessments for special education are, by definition, crude, and in many cases cannot distinguish between academic underperformance caused by a disability and underperformance caused by years of bad instruction. There, I’ve made my peace with it.
What are your thoughts? Is class size really important?