Written by Holly (Teach Starter)
It’s a controversial topic! Do class sizes really matter?
As a teacher, I say – absolutely it does! You can’t say that a class of 35 students is going to get the same positive educational outcomes as a class of 20! To me, this is a logical way of thinking. With fewer students, teachers can give their students better-tailored instruction and get to know their students inside out! It makes for easier crowd control and students can maintain concentration with fewer distractions.
Let’s face it, with the addition of NAPLAN and other national tests; smaller classes help make the assessment load, data collection and additional paperwork more realistic for teachers!
But, what if our teachers were provided with more time with smaller more targeted groups, plus, additional time off their class to do their program writing and paperwork?
By increasing class sizes and spending the extra money on providing teachers with less whole class teaching and more smaller targeted group teaching – are the students in the class going to be better off?
I have decided to risk my life and write this blog! It’s a topic that is always debated in the education field!
On one side of this debate, we have the teachers, unions, parents and some academics arguing that smaller classes allow better teaching and learning, on the other, policy makers, politicians and some academics that argue that class size has very little impact on student achievement.
John Hattie, a well-known researcher in the education field, believes that reducing class size does enhance student achievement, however, only by a marginal amount. He believes what is really important is that the teacher learns to be an expert in their own class, no matter how many students are in their class.
There are so many different variables with this debate! The school, the culture, the behaviour of the students, the socioeconomic location of the school, the varying abilities and possible diagnosis of students in the class.
It got me thinking, what are the thoughts of current teachers in the classroom?
We asked some of our loyal members on our Teach Starter Aussie Members Facebook page.
Here’s what they had to say…
What Teachers are Saying
Lindsey – Year 5 Teacher
Teachers would do anything to assist their students to excel with their learning. We would give anything to be able to provide all the time in the world to those students’ individual needs and to be able to push each and every student to their fullest potential, every… single… time. The truth is, the more students we have, the thinner we have to spread ourselves. Meaning, the further this becomes a reality.
Sonia – Year 2 Teacher
If all of our kiddos came to us from stable supportive families, we could manage a class of 30. The reality is that our kiddos come from a range of backgrounds and often require needs outside of education to be met before they can learn. We are expected to be experts in so many fields and to give each Kiddo exactly what they need. With a class of 25 we can probably give each student about 7 minutes but then we would have to ignore them for the rest of the day and forget about teaching anything!
Sally – Special Needs Teacher
I guess it depends on how complex the needs of your students are, how well organised you are and how prepared you are to differentiate. As a special needs teacher, I do highly structured teaching. I have a very complex group of 9 students who are all at different levels in terms of academic skills, their ability to self-regulate sensory input, and behaviour and social needs.
It is a very challenging class but doing the structured teaching approach gives me the opportunity to get down to some pretty rigorous practice. So, in short …. there are a lot of variables to the debate in class size but I believe that the more structured and organised you are, the better prepared you are to meet all of your students’ needs.
Teilia – Year 1 Teacher
I started the year with 34 Year 1 students…wowser…between behaviour management, space management/transitions, marking, assessing and dealing with parents it was absolutely exhausting. The kids were missing out.
Now that the class has been split, I have ample time to provide relevant feedback and differentiate effectively whilst also managing behaviour effectively. I know each and every one of my students back to front. This is the smallest class I have ever had and it is nothing short of amazing. There is very little attention seeking behaviour and the kids are excelling!
Jess – Year 1 Teacher
It’s just another conversation about how far teachers are stretching themselves really. How many more students can we attend to and still feel like we have achieved a respectable amount of engagement with an adult today? I think, like teaching as a profession itself, there is not a one size fits all answer.
What are your thoughts?
Let us know your views in the comments section below…