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Is Small Better? The Effect of Class Size on Pupil Performance and Teaching Quality Maurice Galton Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge UK Presentation Seminar for Education & Manpower Bureau, Government of the HKSAR 13 December 2003 Some Contrasting Views

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is small better the effect of class size on pupil performance and teaching quality

Is Small Better? The Effect of Class Size on Pupil Performance and Teaching Quality

Maurice Galton

Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge UK

Presentation Seminar for

Education & Manpower Bureau, Government of the HKSAR

13 December 2003

some contrasting views

Some Contrasting Views

Studies and research into the effects of class size have for the most part failed to demonstrate that pupils necessarily do better in small classes (OFSTED 1995)

The research suggests that for states, districts and even schools, class size is a very basic and significant variable in improving educational outcomes (Egelson et al 1995)

some early evidence
Some Early Evidence
  • Meta-analysis of 77 studies of class size and achievement (Glass et al. 1982) Pupils in classes of 20 taught for 100 hours would exceed performance of pupils in classes of 40 by 60%.
  • Effects are not linear (+ve for classes < 20; -ve for classes > 30) Optimum effect in classes of 15 and Grades 1 & 2.
  • Larger effect sizes (>0.20) can be achieved through paired work, co-operative learning and individualized instruction for weakest pupils (Slavin 1989)
teachers views bennett 1996
Teachers’ Views (Bennett 1996)
  • More time for individual instruction
  • Increase in pupil motivation
  • Less pupil misbehavior
  • Improved teacher-pupil personal relationships
  • More time for marking and assessment
  • Less stress
tennessee s tudent t eacher a chievement r atio star project
Tennessee Student-Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) Project
  • 7000 pupils randomly assigned to small (13-17), regular (22-25) and (regular + teaching assistant)
  • Small classes did better from kindergarten to grade 3
  • ethnic minority pupils did particularly well and had highest self-concept scores
  • effects still present when pupils moved to regular classes from grade 4 to 6
  • (Nye et al. 2000)
limitations of star
Limitations of STAR
  • Reanalysis of data using multi-level modeling reduces effect sizes, shows school vs. size and subject interactions
  • No baseline measure so uncertainty about random assignment
  • Too narrow a range of classes: in many countries class size is around 35
  • Restricted range of school types (large, single age entry)
  • (Goldstein & Blatchford 1997)
ioe class size study blatchford 2003
IoE Class Size Study (Blatchford 2003)
  • 9 Local Authorities,199 Schools, 330 classes and 7142 pupils
  • Baseline Literacy (reception entry), standardized tests of literacy and maths (reception & Y1) and National Tests (Y2)
  • Systematic Classroom Observation
  • 79 classes (10-20), 163 (21-25), 294 (26-30), 133 (31+)
  • Teacher Opinion survey
main findings on performance from blatchford 2003
Main Findings on Performance from Blatchford (2003)
  • Effects are largest in reception class
  • Effects are still present for literacy in Y1 but less pronounced by Y3
  • In literacy both high, medium and low ability groups benefit in classes of 25. Below this only low ability pupils benefit
  • In general, for mathematics effects are smaller
main findings on teaching from blatchford 2003
Main Findings on Teaching from Blatchford (2003)
  • More one to one teaching
  • Teacher more actively involved in whole class or groups
  • More task interactions
  • Less task pupil-pupil interactions
holywells case study
Holywells Case Study
  • A Suffolk secondary school in special measures: Some 50% of pupils arrive in Y7 (11 year-olds) below national Literacy and numeracy standard (Level 4).
  • Pupils Level 3 (or below) at Key Stage 2 placed in 4 classes, size 20. Others in classes of 30 or more.
  • Integrated teaching approach for English, maths and humanities. Reduced timetable for science, arts and French.
other changes
Other Changes
  • Attribution change from “I’m in the small class because I’m only Level 2” (ability) to “I can cope in the Y8 bigger class if I work hard” (effort)
  • Despite fewer lessons in Y7 around 33% of pupils are in the top sets in Y8 for Science and French
  • Improved behaviour, less truancy
  • Critical of primary school experiences”Teachers didn’t listen; didn’t explain properly.”
some key questions
Some Key Questions
  • Do teachers always maximize the benefits of smaller classes? Is there a need for special training?
  • Should other classroom interventions (e.g. peer tutoring, use of teaching assistants) be viewed as an alternative to class size reductions or a way of boosting their effects?
  • Could initial teacher training offer opportunities of working with half the class while class teacher takes the remaining pupils elsewhere?
  • Would flexible time tabling allow more pupils to experience small classes ( Is half the time in a class half the size more valuable?)
  • When learning to learn is there a case for giving greater priority to pupils in the 9-11 range or in transfer years?
some key references
Some Key References
  • Blatchford, P. (2003) The Class Size Debate: Is small better?Maidenhead, UK. Open University Press.
  • Galton, M [Ed] (1998) ‘Class Size and Pupil Achievement,’ Special Edition International Journal of Educational Research, 29 (8).
  • Nye, B. et al. (2000) ‘The Effects of Class Size on Academic Achievement: The results of the Tennessee class size experiment’ American Educational Research Journal, 37 (1): 123-151.
  • Finn.J.et al. (2003) ‘The “Why’s” of Class Size: Student Behaviour in Small Classes, Review of Educational Research, 73 (3): 321-368.