7 Benefits of Small Classrooms
Most people believe that smaller classes lead to better education outcomes. Teachers know from experience that they teach better in a small classroom. Teachers are right. There is plenty of research to suggest that classroom size is critical to teaching and learning. Here are some reasons why small is better when it comes to classroom size. Join me as I look at Class Size (7 Benefits of Smallness).
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Here’s the outline of 7 Benefits of Smallness:
- More Hands-On Interaction
- Students Develop Better Social Skills
- Small Class Sizes Reduce Teachers’ Workloads
- Class Size is More Important than the Student’s Background or Type of School
- Classroom Size Matters Most for Minority Students
- Students Can’t Hide in a Small Class
- Smaller Classes Are Quiet and Orderly
Small Classes Are Better
1. Classes Allow More Hands-On Interaction
With a smaller number of students in class, teachers have more time to focus on each student. When they’re not frazzled by the attempt to keep up with a large group of students, they can spend time on more creative, personalized approaches to teaching.
An article in NEA Today by Tim Walker highlighted one teacher’s experience with a smaller class size. When a blizzard made the roads impassable, Milwaukee teacher Rebecca Segal found that only 12 of her 30 students showed up to class. Segal said she knew that it was going to be a great day, and it was.
“I physically felt calmer and more comfortable and they did as well,” Segal said. “Behavior is handled much more fluidly when you can give kids the attention they need. I remember thinking , ‘Wow, this must have been what it was like back in the day.”
Many teachers would undoubtedly enjoy going back to the days of small classes and hands-on learning with their students.
2. Students Develop Better Social Skills
Small classes foster a close, friendly atmosphere. Students are not just faceless names on an attendance list. They’re individuals who learn together and study together. In a small group, students get to know each other. They also get to know their teachers.
Classrooms are an extension of the larger community. A small classroom allows students to learn positive ways of interacting. In a large classroom, students never get that chance. They barely know each other’s names.
The ability to understand social cues, collaborate and respect the views of others are all skills that students will take beyond the classroom. Small classes are better at fostering these skills.
3. Small Class Sizes Reduce Teachers’ Workloads
Teachers who are overworked and overly busy won’t develop creative teaching methods. They’ll be forced to develop teaching methods that take up little time and allow them to manage their workloads.
As the Glossary of Education Reform website explains,
“At a certain point class size, for purely logistical reasons, will affect the instructional options available to teachers, since the demands of lesson preparation, teaching duties, and assignment grading can quickly become unmanageable as class sizes increase.
And the more students that teachers have, the more likely it is that they will have to rely on instructional methods that require less time to complete, such as grading short-answer worksheets or scoring multiple-choice tests.”
Smaller classes allow teachers to spend more time teaching and less time doing paperwork.
According to classsizematters.org, government-funded studies have repeatedly found that small class size is the key variable that predicts learning. The website describes a study by the U.S. Department of Education that made this clear:
“One comprehensive study…looked at the achievement levels of students in 2561 schools across the nation, as measured by their performance on standardized exams. The data included at least 50 schools in each state, including those from large and small, urban and rural, affluent and poor areas.
After controlling for student background, the only objective factor that was found to be correlated with higher student success was class size, not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify.
What was even more striking is that these achievement gains were more strongly linked to smaller classes in the upper rather than the lower grades.
5. Classroom Size Matters Most for Minority Students
Numerous well-designed studies by independent researchers have found that small class size is overwhelmingly important to students in minority and low-income schools.
- A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that school graduation rates were higher in schools that had more teachers for each student. The difference was more marked for minority students.
- A study of schools in New York City found that students in smaller schools had lower dropout rates.
- A survey of high school dropouts found that more than 75% of them said they could have graduated if their teachers had been able to give them more focused attention.
- Minority students gain the most benefits from small class sizes, but they are the most likely to be in classes of 30 students or more.
In a large classroom, it’s easy for a student who’s having trouble to hide. Students who are struggling to learn or disengaged can sit in a corner, never speak up and simply wait for the class period to end.
Busy teachers don’t have the ability to seek out every student who’s hiding this way. Even if they can, they don’t have the time to focus on that one student and provide a more individual approach.
A large classroom can make students feel lost. They don’t develop a sense of connection with anyone. In a small classroom, there is no way to withdraw from the group. Teachers can reach those students who are struggling.
7. Smaller Classes Are Quiet and Orderly
It’s easier for schools and teachers to maintain order and discipline in small classes.
A large group of students is almost always noisy. Even if they’re not talking or being disruptive, they make noise. They rustle papers, drop books, whisper to each other, try to ask questions and move their feet.
Every teacher knows that one troublemaker in a class can cause the whole group to start acting up.
A small classroom is quiet and easy to discipline. Any students who are disruptive stand out in a small classroom. A teacher can take quick action to identify the problem and discipline the student.
Teachers Know the Score
Some people debate the value of small classes. Teachers know that they teach better when they can reach individual students instead of a sea of nameless faces. The research clearly shows that small classes are better. They lead to higher graduation rates, more student engagement and more creative teaching.
What’s You Take on This?
Are your class sizes manageable, or are you feeling completely overwhelmed with the number of students you deal with each class period? Is it time to start thinking about making some changes?
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