Does Class Size Really Matter?

Posted by Dr. Caroline Robison, O.D. on October 22, 2017
Dr. Caroline Robison, O.D.

Does Class Size Really Matter?

It was the first day back to school after Christmas vacation at the best private elementary schools in california for the first grade class.  All the children were excited to share about what they got for Christmas.  A new little girl, who had just moved to the town, walked into the classroom of 30 students.  Her heart sank as she looked at the sea of kids, thinking about her previous school and friends she had left behind. The teacher instructed the children to start reading a chapter in their history book. Feeling embarrassed and scared, the new girl sat there looking around at her classmates because she didn’t know how to read.

By Easter break, this same little girl moved yet again to another new school.  Still, she did not know how to read. This class was different though. There were only 12 children with a combination of kindergarten/first grade students.  After lunch, the kindergarteners would go home and 5 first graders would continue learning through the afternoon. The small class size offered the girl more individualized attention from her teacher, better social benefits that promoted higher self-esteem, and better class management for her teacher.  With the help of fewer students and a patient teacher, the little girl finally learned how to read.

Individualized Attention

In every classroom, there will be inevitable levels of learning needs among the students.  There will be children who excel in academics, those who meet the minimum standards, and those who struggle in one or more subjects.  With a smaller class size, the teacher has more time to tailor their instruction to the various levels of the students.  Like we heard in the story of the first grader in the small class, the teacher had more time to spend with the girl to get her up to speed on reading.

Social Benefits

Smaller class sizes offer children a special closeness between students and the teacher.  This could lead to greater confidence and self-esteem as tentative children feel more comfortable socially.  When there are fewer students, the teacher has more time to get to know each child personally and understand their unique circumstances.  The girl in the story grew fond of her teacher who taught her to read and enjoyed making new friends.

Better Class Management

Most typical classrooms might have as many as 30 to 40 children. And while some teachers have found excellent ways to manage their larger classrooms, imagine how much easier it would be for any teacher to manage a smaller class of 15 to 20 students! Children naturally behave better and pay more attention when they cannot hide in the crowd. When there are fewer disruptions from those that might misbehave, there is more time to teach and may also allow for more enrichment activities.  

A Challenge Overcome by a Small Class Size

For the girl in the story, a small class size helped her learn how to read before she was left behind in yet another grade. And I am so thankful for the opportunity of the small class size because that little girl was me!  I am sure I would have eventually learned how to read in a bigger class as time went on, but since the teacher was able to recognize and resolve the problem quickly, it saved me from more frustration and falling behind on learning in all my subjects. Our teacher also gave us a chance to share ideas with each other.  After I learned to read, I had an opportunity to teach my class something.  I felt empowered after learning how to read and know it stemmed from feeling confident and secure in my new small sized learning environment.

Does small class size automatically mean individualized attention + social benefits + better class management? Not always, but it certainly increases the odds dramatically.  Do you think your child would perform better in a small class size?  That’s a question I hope I have helped you think about.

To Read a Heritage Oak Student's Perspective of a Small Class Size, click HERE

Successfully Transitioning from Public to Private School

Topics: Learning, Christian Education