Much academic research has been dedicated to answering this question. Whilst there is no magic number, it’s generally agreed upon that smaller class sizes are better for producing good academic outcomes and other positive educational measurements.
● The Tennessee STAR study – a four-year project involving 7,000 students and 79 schools. They reduced class sizes of 22 down to just 13. Significantly better academic outcomes were discovered for primary school children.
● A study published in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis Journal found that smaller eighth-grade classes bring improvements to pupil engagement across a number of measurements.
● In a Launch Michigan survey of over 6,000 educators, 80% said that reducing class sizes would be the best way to improve schools.
Smaller Class Sizes:
The Pros and Cons
The research suggests smaller class sizes are better, but what real-world benefits do they bring? Here are the pros and cons for small class sizes.
Fewer children in a class means more one-to-one tuition time from the teacher, tailoring their instruction to meet the individual needs of each child in the class, giving more of their resources to those that are struggling.
Teachers are more able to control the entire class, with fewer children to keep an eye on and fewer minds to keep engaged.
For the students, focusing on the teacher and what they’re learning is much easier with fewer children around them. Large classes may result in small pockets of disruption making it harder for a teacher to extinguish potential distractions.
Quieter children who may feel uncomfortable speaking in large groups can quickly be lost. With smaller class sizes, every child has more opportunity to participate.
The above points add up to less time wasted. With fewer distractions the teacher can run through the material of the lesson faster. More material can be covered and children are able to gain a deeper level of understanding.
Reducing class size reduces the number of papers a teacher must mark. With more time to dedicate to each paper, they can offer more tailored feedback to each student.
Larger class size allows for a greater diversity of people. Different children bring different perspectives and life experiences to the classroom, making for a richer learning environment.
A lower teacher/student ratio means schools will have to invest in more teachers. Smaller class sizes mean more classrooms which may mean the school may have to invest in building more.
A point of differentiation between public and private schools is class size. A public school may have a class filled with as many as 30 students, while a private school puts greater emphasis on smaller class sizes of around 20.