Why Class Size Matters
In recent years, studies were conducted to shed light on why class size can have a direct impact on student’s performance, academic results and personal growth. In this article, we gather the results and information produced by some of these initiatives, and also provide our take on why class size should be one of the biggest considerations when choosing a school or any academic institution.
STUDENT OUTCOMES AND HUMAN CAPITAL FORMATION
In a major research conducted last year by Northwestern University Associate Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, it was made very clear that class size does matter as it is “an important determinant of student outcomes.”
One of the evidences used to substantiate this claim is the “Tennessee’s Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) experiment,” wherein students were randomly assigned to small or regular-sized classes from 1985-89. At the end of the experiment, it was found out that “the students’ achievement on math and reading standardized tests improved by about 0.15 to 0.20 standard deviations (or 5 percentile rank points) from being assigned to a small class of 13-17 students instead of a regularsized class of 22-25 students.”
In the same research, it was also mentioned that “evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run but also their long-term human capital formation.” Referring back to the STAR experiment, it was found out that students who were originally assigned to small classes had better “life outcomes.” These students fared better in a variety of outcomes including juvenile criminal behavior, teen pregnancy, high school graduation, college enrollment and completion.
MORE ON THE BENEFITS OF SMALL CLASS SIZE
Last year, the National Council of Teachers of English (Illinois, US) also produced an interesting list of the advantages of small class size to students. One of the benefits highlighted was “Student Performance,” which points out that students participate more in smaller classes and are more likely to interact with the teacher rather than listen passively during class.
Small class size not only benefits the students, however, but also students – which was one of the points highlighted in a research conducted in Australia last year.
Dr David Zyngier, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education at Monash University, found out that in a small class size:
- Teachers were more able not only to complete their lessons in smaller classes, but to develop their lessons in more depth
- Teachers moved through curricula more quickly and were able to provide additional enrichment activities
- Teachers reported that they managed their classes better, and classes functioned more smoothly as less time was spent on discipline and more on learning
Parents want what is best for their children, and this notion couldn’t be more true when it comes to providing for their education.
At Insworld Institute, we have observed during counselling sessions that the deciding factor for most parents in terms of enroling their children to our school is the fact that we offer small class sizes of around 4 – 12 students. And to be honest, it’s only logical. Why? Based on our experience, the benefits of small class size are:
- Individual Attention – students are given utmost attention by their teachers. Since the class can adapt to the various needs and interests of the students more easily, they are eager to learn and they are more interested in the lessons. Furthermore, being in a large class exposes a student to demotivation and cheating. In a small class, before moving on to the next topic, the teacher has to make sure that all of the students understood the lesson. As regards discipline matters, having a small class prevents if not minimizes the occurrence of negativity since these problems are easier to handle and to detect.
- Better Student – Teacher Relations – having a small class allows the teacher to know the names of his/her students easily and quickly. By fostering a caring and nurturing environment built on mutual respect and trust, students feel more secure and they would seek help from a teacher if and when needed.
- Active Involvement of Students – being in a smaller group encourages more participation. Students cannot hide since participation is a must. Home work is more substantial since students are exposed to more writing activities in order to prepare them for the rigors in studying in a university. Besides, students become more disciplined in attending their classes since their absences or tardiness are noticed easily.
- Fosters Healthy Competition – rather than competing with one another just to know who is the best in the class, having a small class size encourages the students to strive for an “A”. Thus, the competition is in oneself. Students are pushed to perform more and to do more in order to get the grade they deserve. Moreover, lively discussions occur in small classes which are not common in large settings.
- Improves Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem – having lectures in big classes rarely involve discussion. In a small class, students are given the chance to speak in order to express their thoughts. They are also given the chance to come up with individual presentations to improve their oral skills and to build their confidence. In a small class, there is greater motivation to participate, show understanding and opinions, which can help an introverted student to become involved and develop greater confidence.
- Forges Friendships – in small classes, students are more likely to connect with one another. Striking up conversations before class, discussing assignments after class and forming study groups are common when you share a class with a small group of peers. These connections not only make classes more enjoyable, but they can also ease workloads if students cleverly plan to divide and conquer some course tasks, like outlining textbook chapters or working on group projects. Connecting with other students can also lead to friendship, which can be a rich part of the entire learning experience.
So, do small class sizes matter? The answer is yes. It can benefit all students, most especially those who are not performing very well in terms of individual and active attention from teachers.
Also, small classes allows teachers to engage in “individualized teaching,” and can be used as part of a more distinct curriculum. Thus, teachers should be encouraged to take up opportunities for varied pedagogical approaches in smaller classes, including collaborative learning, rather than simply increase the amount of individualized attention. This would also give way for the students to have a free hand as regards their manner and strategies of learning.
Indeed, there is no tried and tested formula as regards securing a brighter and successful academic pathway for students. However, one thing is for sure. Getting something like a successful education does not come without a price. Even if the price tag seems high, quality should never be sacrificed, most especially in securing a better and brighter education for your children.
* This article was co-written by Ms Gwendilyn Abrico and Mr Glen Oliver
DID YOU KNOW: You can find out more about the benefits and advantages offered by Insworld Institute by clicking here