Teaching in Large and Small Classes
In many countries over the world there has been a hotly contested and widely reported debate over the educational consequences of class size differences. Opinions vary from those academics and policy makers who argue that class size reduction is not cost effective to those who argue that it should be a cornerstone of educational policy. Despite the debate, there is general agreement, from both experimental (e.g., Finn & Achilles, 1999) and naturalistic studies (Blatchford, Bassett, Goldstein, & Martin, 2003), that smaller classes have positive effects on pupil academic performance, if introduced immediately after school entry, that is, with the youngest children in school.
However, it is now widely appreciated that attention needs to move from studies of the effects on academic outcomes to better understanding of the classroom processes that might be involved (Anderson, 2000; Finn, Pannozzo, & Achilles, 2003; Grissmer, 1999). In this paper we concentrate on connections between class size and these classroom processes such as teacher and pupil behaviour and relationships, relationships between pupils, pupil engagement and involvement. Rather than a detailed review of research evidence, we are more concerned with the educational implications of class size differences, with a particular emphasis on maximising the benefits of small classes for pupil learning.
KeywordsClass Size Small Class School Entry School Size Individual Attention
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