“Big School, Small School” Revisited
The psychological effect of high school size was first studied by Barker and his colleagues (Barker & Gump, 1964), who conducted a survey of students’ participation in extracurricular activities. In schools whose size varied from 50 to 2,300 students, they conducted behavior setting surveys. Behavior settings have certain time space boundaries and standing patterns of behavior. Behavior settings are environmental units that connect teachers and students with their school as a whole. Comparisons between big and small schools showed that the number of settings did not have a simple proportional relation to school size. This means that even small schools have essential settings as a school in spite of a low level of structure and differentiation. As for the use of settings, small schools stimulate students to participate in settings responsively so that they have varied experiences. On the other hand, big schools seem to offer their students only nominal participation. School size relates positively to setting size. This means that a small school’s small setting is in an “understaffed condition,” which allows all participants to be substantial performers even though their performances are relatively poor. On the other hand, a big school’s big setting yields some excellent performers but many anonymous and nominal participants. In the latter case, individuals deviate from the interpersonal control that might function in a small group and become unable to enjoy the useful activities provided by small settings. The question is: which school, big or small, is desirable? The answer depends on which educational objectives are considered favorable: essential experience or excellent performance.
KeywordsSchool Setting Behavior Setting Extracurricular Activity School Size Small School
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