Class size

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Malika, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

  2. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    As a former teacher, I think it doesn't take a genius to see that smaller classes, especially for younger children, equa;s better teaching and learning.

    When kids are older and doing subjects where they get information from texts and lectures, it may not matter as much, although I think you could make a case for more personal attention there as well. I remember some college classes where I was one of a couple hundred and the professor wouldn't have recognized me if he met me on the street. Not sure that was a good system either but those of us who were motivated did OK.

    But when you are teaching things like reading and math skills, you need to attend to each child individually. They don't all learn in the same way or at the same pace. ITheoretically, if you have 30 kids in a room, they each get only half as much individual attention as when there are 15. What actually happens is, the teacher spends most of her time struggling with disciplining those who won't comply and trying to meet the needs of the lowest achieving students (who should actually be getting an aide or special classes) and those in the middle or on the high end and those who are quiet and docile get nothing. That is one reason we have a lot of kids who never master the basic skills. There are only 24 hours in a day and kids are at school usually no more than 5 to 7 of those. Take out time for music, art, PE, lunch, recess, etc. and there is very little class time yet. By the way, I'm not complaining about those extra things: there is research to show that kids who have things like music and art do better in reading and math. And PE and recess are essential, although right now there is a trend toward eliminating recess so kids can spend more time in class. Yeah, that works really well for all kids, especially those with ADHD and some issues like that, right?
  3. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I can only speak from personal experience.

    From nursery school until Gr. 6, I went to a private school with very limited enrollment. Class sizes were tiny. In Gr. 6, my entire grade consisted of 17 people (not my class, my grade). Every student in the school knew all of the other students, all of the teachers knew all of the students, and most of the parents knew each other, and the other students.

    It was a wonderfully supportive and nurturing environment. The teachers had the luxury of getting to know each of us very well and understanding what did and didn't work for us on an individual level, and we all thrived. I remember one year (I think it was Gr.4), they gave us the Canadian Basic Skills test to see how we were faring compared to the standard curriculum. No one in the class scored below a Gr. 8 level in any of the subjects included on the test. It's not that we were a bunch of geniuses, but rather that with all the individual attention, we were each given an opportunity to work to our full potential.

    Once I graduated from that school, I moved on to another private school for Gr.7 to 13. This was a larger institution, but classes usually had no more than 20 students in them, and the entire student body was 600 girls. Again, the teachers got to know us on a personal level, we received a lot of individual attention, and were supported in taking on special projects that interested us.

    There are situations in which large classes can work, but to ensure that children really get a good handle on the basics and to identify each child's gifts and challenges, I think smaller classes can only help.

    Just my $0.02
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    We had a principal once that CHOSE to teach half time and squeeze admin into the other half... because the board didn't care how he spent his time, just how he spent his money. By adding himself into the teaching load... he was able to reduce the size of the K-3 classes from 25 to 22. In his words "its easier to prevent problems than to solve them... and the biggest impact on preventing problems, is to shrink class size".
  5. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Interestingly, the right-wing French government recently commissioned a study that "proved" that smaller class size did not affect academic performance except for those with special needs... Coincidentally (!), this preceded the decision to save money by increasing class sizes and shutting down small schools. Tiny village schools like my son's still exist all over France, however, albeit with a sword of Damocles hanging over them in the long term. There is no doubt in my mind that he is thriving on it, in terms of academic (and doubtless behavioural) considerations... Part of me also wonders whether learning to cope in a bigger (not huge) environment might not also have some advantages.
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Class size probably has less impact on academic performance... but it DOES affect behavior issues! (per that principal we had...) He taught part-time to reduce class size to reduce HIS workload on behavior problems.
  7. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    As the saying goes: there are lies, there are dam-ed lies, and there are statistics.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    There has been a lot of debate on this issue. Tennessee did a very good study on this, the ONLY long term study on the subject from what I have read. The other studies are analyses of other studies and conclusions drawn from that analysis - NOT from actually running the studies.

    One thing we should note is that class size is very different than student to teacher ratio.

    I have kids who have been in large, small, medium and very small (homeschooled 1:1 with different adults teaching diff subjects depending on their education/ability to teach that child).

    I am a very firm believer that class size makes a difference. How big that difference is depends on a LOT of things. Class size is something that is debated so often and so heatedly because it is quantifiable and a guideline can be written and be enforced with much less ambiguity than other variables can be controlled.

    From what I have read and observed and discussed with teachers and with other parents, class size has a big impact in the elementary grades, esp kindergarten through 3rd, and is less important after that. I still am very unhappy if one of my children is put into a class with more than 30 students. Large classes use up a lot of time with housekeeping and transitioning that really needs to be spent on academics.

    By college I think that the quality of the teacher and the student's desire to learn plays more of a role than class size.
  9. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    As a teacher I can tell you class size matters! There have been years when I've had 28 students in a class and years when I've had 22 (and everything in between).

    The years when I had such high numbers it is almost impossible to give the type of attention to individual students they deserve. Depending on the needs in the class 22 can be a big number. It's amazing to me how much better I can meet student needs when my class size is smaller.