NEW School Update: Class Size Matters

This won’t surprise anyone in education, but class size matters. It matters a lot. The bigger the class, the harder it is to meet the individual needs of the learners in our classrooms.

As I began to pilot NEW School this year, my goals were to:

I realize now that the number one hurdle I face in successfully accomplishing these goals is the sheer number of students I see on a daily basis. There is only so much time in a day and large class sizes make connecting with individual students challenging. My co-teacher and I useĀ blended learning models to create more opportunities to connect with students in person and online; however, it’s still a daily challenge to meet all of my students’ needs and attempt to tailor learningĀ for individual students.

Piloting this program has been a real eye opener about why it’s so challenging to execute innovative, outside of the box programs at traditional high schools where teachers juggle large numbers of students. Although smaller class sizes require a significant financial investment, I believe it’s necessary if teachers are going to be truly effective in shifting from the status quo to more innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

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7 Responses to NEW School Update: Class Size Matters

  1. Kelsey says:

    As an English teacher at an urban public school, I often have friends/family members who ask me questions like- “if you could make just ONE change to your school what change would you make?” My answer is ALWAYS smaller class sizes. My small classes are near always the best behaved, see the most growth, and have the best clsss sommunity. It would make such a difference. Thanks for sharing this post!

    • Absolutely! I’ve seen the same benefits when I work with smaller groups of students. It makes total sense. Fewer students = more time spent with individual students.

      Catlin

  2. Brian says:

    My gut feeling as a teacher absolutely agrees with you. Interestingly though the meta-analysis by Hattie (updated here: http://visible-learning.org/nvd3/visualize/hattie-ranking-interactive-2009-2011-2015.html) shows class size having an effect size of only 0.21. Perhaps it’s smaller class sizes allow you to engage more with strategies with higher effect sizes? Food for thought……

    • Hi Brian,

      I’ve read John Hattie’s work and used a lot of that data to guide my work with students (i.e. students self-assessing/grading their own work), but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around how class size has such little impact. It seems to directly impact several of the other factors Hattie highlights as having a higher impact on student learning. I agree it’s worth throwing into the conversation. That said, in my day-to-day work I feel like the higher the teacher to student ratio, the more challenging it is to meet the needs of the learners in my room.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Catlin

      • Barbara Paciotti says:

        I often wonder about these “research” results and exactly what sizes the classes were that they were researching. Perhaps it depends on the subject classes they were researching or the variation in their class sizes, but I can’t help but think that if they did the research with classes that varied from 25 as opposed to 30 or 35 or even 40 they’d see a much larger difference.

  3. Barbara Paciotti says:

    I totally agree that class size matters. I’ve often said, “We don’t need to pay teachers more; we need to pay more teachers!” (Although a decent wage would surely help!)

  4. Martin Tremblay says:

    About Hattie, most studies found that once class size is reduced not much changes in the teacher’s practice and thus the achived impact on success. This does not really apply to teachers who go blended or PBL, but more in terms of old-school lectures, exercices and correction. Giving a lecture to 36 or 28 students might not change much if students are still passively listening. But having very active lessons where the teacher seeks and gives feedback and I say SIZE MATTERS!

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