Jason Buell tweeted this article recently:
And just a few comments down, a middle school social studies teacher claimed that he had the same results with 52 students in a class as 12 students. I believe this, and immediately I have a measure as to how poor of a teacher this guy was.
How can you not squeeze out way more with a class of 12?? I mean think of the possibilities! Individual conferences. Having each student answer during class. Total accountability. Being able to take data on student achievement DURING class!
That’s just the easily measurable stuff. Then there’s how much more you as a teacher can shape the dynamics of a class.
I have two Algebra II classes. One has 31 students (seriously!) and the other has 15. In that class of 15, they came in with the lowest achievement out of all 46 students. But because I can individually interact with each student during a class, and as a result we have a much healthier classroom culture.
For example, wednesday’s lesson was pretty well written, but I screwed the pooch by switching their seats as soon as they walked in the door. Nobody likes their new groups. They never work with “those people.” But because I could interact with all 4 groups, by the end of the class we had total engagement & cooperation. Those subtle (and not so subtle) interpersonal moves that I made are almost impossible once the class size gets above 20 kids.
So in short – class size does make a difference, if you’re the kind of teacher that takes advantage of the smaller size. If you’re a lecturing windbag, nothing is going to save your students.