The Advantages of Small Class Size
In education theory and actual practice, one issue continually causes parents, teachers and politicians to take to the streets or at least the internet. This is the issue of class size. It is one reason why parents send their children to private schools. Yet, does small class size have any advantages over larger groupings of students? The research seems to indicate so.
Research on the advantages of small class size has been going on for decades. The findings have been brought up repeatedly. An excellent summary of some of the main research and findings are provided in a policy published recently by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. The author, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is an Associate Professor Northwestern University. The findings, clearly indicate that when it comes to class size, small is important.
Another look at the class size debate using research is provided by the Center for Public Education. They recite pertinent and Seminole studies by researchers as well as findings from implementation in Tennessee and California. It includes the famous Student Teacher Achievement Ratio or STAR study instituted in the 1980s in Tennessee. This provides an excellent overview of the situation as described up to 2013.
How Is Small Class Size Advantageous?
Class size has been found to beneficial in several ways. In general, studies conclude that small class size:
- Allows greater adaptation of material or coursework to the students in the class
- Reduces the achievement gap for minority and disadvantaged groups
- Reduces peer distraction but more positive learning peer interaction
- Allows for more individualized instruction
- Creates the chance for students to play a greater role and have a bigger voice in the classroom
- Makes no shows obvious
- Gives teachers time to provide feedback
- Makes for an easier transition from primary to secondary and to University learning
- Results in higher levels of student engagement
It is to be noted, however, that the research on a large scale has yet to be done. Furthermore, some of the research indicates that without properly trained teachers, small size may be ineffective. Teacher training is a factor in the success or failure of a class no matter what the size. This is applicable to Public, Private and Charter Schools. It also applies to any form of schooling, including home schooling. Nevertheless, to say a good school can compensate for the larger class is a fallacy that needs to be laid to rest permanently.
Class Size Matters
Class size is a very important issue when it concerns the schooling of our children. Small classes are one way private schools continue to attract students. It has been part of their arsenal since the foundation of the American school system and remains a point in their favor. While many politicians may ignore the findings, frightened by potentially soaring costs, it is hard to overlook the consistent results. While there may not be a direct correlation between enhanced student performance and class size, there is clear indication that small class size is influential in creating the atmosphere and conditions for improved learning. This is particularly true when it comes to children who come from low-income and minority homes.