Class size is one of those topics in education that is always good for a lively debate. One might expect that the issue would have been settled once and for all when Hattie showed that class size reduction had a minor effect on student achievement. But the debate continues. Teachers still generally prefer smaller classes, while education researchers tend to follow Hattie’s idea that class size does not matter, delighting policymakers. My colleagues of this blog collective are as divided about this topic as everyone else (see category ‘klasgrootte’ = class size).
Alex Quigley, an English teacher from York, UK, adds some food for thought in his blog Hunting English:
Well, of course class size matters, stupid. And yet, as with most things in education, it is more complicated than that.
The debate has broken out once more on social media, based on a review of class size research undertaken by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, called ‘Does Class Size Matter‘, resulting in headlines in established media outlets like the Washington Post: ‘Class Size Matters a Lot, Research Shows‘. Interestingly, this research summary is over a year old, but the debate that were initiated back in February 2014 are being repeated once more. In fact, the evidence stated by Schanzenbach is broadly the same as what has been offered by the EEF Toolkit, but Schanzenbach doesn’t really discuss potential alternatives approaches, nor the issues that attend class size reduction.
Now, you would be hard pressed to find a parent, teacher or student, who would demand larger class sizes. I am a parent and I am a teacher. Do I prefer groups of 20 over groups of 25, for example? Of course – it would be my preference almost every time to have 20 students. Only, the issue with reducing class size like this is that it doesn’t transform student outcomes – it is no silver bullet. I wouldn’t change my practice with the class size reduction I describe.
Does class size matter? Of course – but not as much as we think and we seldom give a thought to other factors that attend class size reductions.We need to ask better questions.