1. Also, just thinking of science in particular, most labs that I have seen are not equipped to safely have classes of 35+ students, and more class rooms when set up for 35-40 leave little room for changing seating arrangements and using different strategies/activities. Not to say it can't be done, but the greater the number the greater the chance someone feels left out or like their contribution is less important. Larger class sizes is definitely not the ideal situation for highly engaged students or higher achievement. 22-25 is a nice class size – having had everything from 15-36. Great article, got me thinking!

  2. k crosby

    Agreeing with this article. Thanks for speaking up and continuing the honest conversation. As a well seasoned teacher I have seen several "trends" these past 30 years. I must say this new era, the21 century, is an exciting embark. Launching into uncharted territory is invigorating yet there are some constants. IE: class sizes
    When I first heard from our leaders that research supports that class sizes don't impact student achievement I thought, wha? really? I had to take a deep breath. The masses still have the same need for personal classroom community, to be able to take risks in their learning (not just a number), to collaborate and access one-on-one assistance, address attention to individual needs, and of course thoughtful planning for each child as an individual. This all takes time, both inside and outside of the classroom. Of course class size impacts student achievement.
    This year as the students accessed google docs to collaborate with me using our student portal. I was amazed at how they took big steps to communicate with me and moved toward quality work. These 10 year old students were engaged, inspired because of my ability to converse providing that immediate feedback that research states is pertinent.
    I fear I am not able to deliver that same quality of service with too many more joining my class. As people, students need to know their teacher is accessible both in class and through digital communication. As teachers, we need to know we can make the difference one child at a time rather than in masses.

  3. George, thanks for the thinking. I agree with you of course regarding the need to interact on a one-to-one basis with our students as often as possible and that stand and deliver no longer cuts it. But I have to make sure to reiterate that the data on class size is not about ignoring this. It is in fact about making sure that we do not fight for just class size rereduction, but that we also fight for improved teaching and learning understandings for all of our profession. Hatties research work is an example of this, John talks to use about the need to combine both for the greatest outcomes. When I was Director of Research in literacy for the Victorian gov in Australia 1995 – 2001, we were giving the same message back then. As we know places like California just took one part of the equation and reduced class sizes dramatically but failed to comprehend that the quality of the teacher was of the greatest importance. I continue to argue that I have seen outstanding classroom practice in classes where the teacher has 35 students and also seen appauling practice where the teacher has had 15 students.
    So while I agree, I also want to be one of this people who keep talking about the data on class size, because it has to be fully understood and often the debates focus purely on the number of students in the classroom rather than the combination of ingredients.

  4. I too found the smaller class sizes of higher-year university classes, such as those I participated in in my graduate and diploma degrees, to be very instrumental in learning.

    Small class size provides students one huge advantage: a chance to discuss, to push past sporadic inputs and discourse into truly communicating and participating in learning and with, and not to, others.

    With a larger class size, for the most part a student waits. In fact, traditional education is mainly about waiting, waiting for one's chance or one's turn, a chance to actually actively learn through action and participation. The less often students get to act in learning, the more irrevocably they give up trying.

    No wonder we have kids who just painfully stare, others who act out in rebellion and still others who desperately learn and learn and want to answer. Waiting is the opposite of engagement and learning. It breaks the spirit and wonder lust of our children. Where engagement empowers our children to think, waiting silences them or causes them to erupt in tension-filled misbehaviour.

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