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EDU 6600 – Effective Schools

October 12, 2009

During our online discussions this week, I was surprised and intrigued by the comments made regarding class size, and the implication that it does not matter for an effective teacher. While I found the reasoning behind this argument to be sound, and the comments made about it were equally reasonable, I still have to disagree with the statement in general.

In a perfect world, I would agree that a great teacher can teach any size class. My issue is that I am not a great teacher, in fact, I’m still learning how to be the teacher I want to be. As an educator, I feel like the road to greatness is a long one, and while I’m good at some things there are others that I still need to work on (hence why I’m in the C&I program at SPU). In short, in my world class size ABSOLUTELY matters.

To emphasize my point I’ll give an example. My third period class has 27 student in it, five of whom are students with IEP’s or 504’s. Similarly, my fourth period class also has 27 students, none of whom have IEP’s or 504’s. those five students in period 3 make it so part of my focus and attention remains on the behavioral issues of these students every time I see them, rather than on the material as in my fourth period class. Sure, I still retain part of my attention in pd. 4 to behavioral “watch” but I also know that the potential for problems is a lot lower.

My argument is that even the best teacher would not be able to maintain a consistent level of productivity and performance in these back-to-back classes for the entire year, especially if the class had 35 students rather than the 27 it currently does. I’m sure that there might be someone who could manage the students effectively and consistently, but with no effect to the education of those students or others in the class?

I’m not convinced that class size does not matter. Moreover, what is the upper limit to class size in this theory? Could a good teacher effectively teach 30 fourth graders that same as 20? What about 40? 100? The limits of human capability apply here as they do anywhere else.

I believe that in order for education to be effective, educators need to develop interpersonal relationships with those they are trying to teach. Unfortunately, when class size increases that possibility quickly disappears.

One Comment leave one →
  1. alumpe permalink
    October 12, 2009 7:31 pm

    My experience teaching high school also speaks to the issues of class size. Large scale studies may not capture every nuance in individual situations. I’ve always wondered how Japanese schools are so successful when they have 60-70 students per class? They are a monoculture society so that may have something to do with it.

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