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Does small size class work?

Implementation of small size class is prevalent nowadays. On one hand, students divided into small groups can stimulate them take part in the lecture more interactively (Kenndy, R. , no date). However, on the other hand, someone believed that small size class would increase student anxiety as some students would be shy or inactive when participating in a mini-group (Schreiner, E. , no date). Thus, we are going to explore the advantages and disadvantages of small size class in this passage.


Firstly, according to the organization of class size matters (no date), it pointed out that students who had been taught in a small size class would have a higher grades and lower drop-out rates. Also, it also mentioned the result from national survey which carried out in 2008. In this study, it showed that about 76% of the teachers in first year of university recognized reduction of class size would be an effective way to improve the teaching quality of teachers. Jedeikin (2013) also recognized that smaller class can increase the class attendance as it is easier to notice there is someone missing in a smaller class. Moreover, students would have more chance to learn and be given feedback from peers.


Nevertheless, there are still some drawbacks of small size class. Chen (no date) indicated that as classes were divided into smaller groups. Thus, there would be an increasing demand of teachers. In  fact, there is a problem that the number of teachers can’t fit the demand of small size classes.

A website also indicated that some schools began to employ the teachers where were not qualified (GreatSchools, no date). Moreover, Chen also pointed out that some studies showed that even students can get better grades in small classes, this improvement is not long-lasting.


From the above, we can clearly see that reduction of class size can improve students’ grade. In addition, teachers’ teaching quality can be improved as well. However, resources for implementing small size classes may not enough, such as limitation of qualified teachers.





Chen, G. (no date). Smaller Class Sizes: Pros and Cons. Retrieved 26 October 2013, from



Class size matters (no date). The Benefits of Smaller Classes. Retrieved 26 October 2013, from


GreatSchools (no date). How important is class size?. Retrieved 26 October 2013, from



Jedeikin. J. (2013). 5 benefits of a small class size. Retrieved 26 October 2013, from



Kenndy, R. (no date). Why Small Class Sizes Work. Retrieved 26 October 2013, from


Schreiner, E. (no date). Disadvantages of Teaching a Small Class. Retrieved 26 October 2013, from


11 responses to “Does small size class work?

  1. Research into the effect of class size on students achievement is mixed, and changes depending on the age of the students.

    The NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2004) found that in the first few years of school there are both positives and negatives of smaller class sizes. They reveal that smaller classes leads to more emotional support, higher levels of social skills and higher literacy grades. Where as larger classes leads to more group activities, more interaction between students, and higher engagement in the lessons. Furthermore, Finn, Gerber and Boyd-Zaharias (2005) reveal a correlation between small classroom size in the early years or school and graduating high school. This suggests that there are both positives and negatives to smaller classes for younger children, but this cannot be generalised to others years because the needs of students change as they grow up as do the benefits of smaller classes.

    Where as for older students research suggests that the role the individual has within group is more important than the overall siz of the class (Webb, 1982). If students work in small groups the individual students need to feel like their adding to the group for it to lead to successful learning and higher academic achievement. In addition, Meece, Blumenfeld and Hoyde (1988) found that within smaller groups of students a students individual motivation in greater than in larger groups. This indicates that for student to excel within education they need to feel they are important to their group and the use of smaller groups increases motivation.

    To conclude the research into classroom size is mixed with both positive and negatives. Research seems to suggest smaller classes are better for the younger years in schools, but as the student grow up larger classes witch utilize smaller group work are effective.

    Finn, J.D., Gerber, S.B. & Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). Small classes in the early grades, academic achievement and graduating from high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 214-223.
    Meece, J.L., Blumenfeld, P.C. & Hoyde, R.H. (1988). Students’ goal orientations and cognitive engagement in classroom activities. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 514-523.
    NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2004). Does class size in first grade relate to children’s academic and social performance or observed classroom processes? Developmental Psychology, 40, 651-664.
    Webb, N.M. (1982). Student interaction and learning in small groups. Review of Educational Research, 52, 421-445.

  2. Bex Loak

    Interestingly Cho, H., Glewwe, P., & Whitler, M. (2012) found contradicting evidence to that of what is mentioned in the above blog. They found that students test scores were only slightly affected by class size (0.05 standard deviations). Then again they DID find that test scores were improved if only slightly this is still an improvement to students’ scores when compared to larger class sizes. However, Cho, Glewwe and Whitler’s study did raise the implication, when conducting their research, that in some schools in order for them to reduce the number of students in each class they would have to increase the overall number of students in the school to make it cost effective and practical in the long term. This leads to the potential disadvantages and effects of having an increased student population having an impact on the students concerned.

    Cho, H., Glewwe, P., & Whitler, M. (2012). Do reductions in class size raise students’ test scores? Evidence from population variation in Minnesota’s elementary schools. Economics of Education Review, 31(3), 77-95.

  3. muteb9905

    This blog post tackles a strategic educational matter related to the class size and its impact on learning and academic performance. This blog post is objective as it provided the 2 sides of the story as it demonstrated both the advantages and disadvantages of having small size classes; however, this blog post is very concise and I believe that it does not meet the word count requirements as its word count is only 330 words. This post is still informative and I really enjoyed reading it. I have couple of comments as follows:
    Many educational systems are facing strategic choices with respect to reducing the class size. In some cases, laws are passed with this respect as in the state of California with the Class Size Reduction (CSR) Law in 1996, which aimed to reduce class size in grades kindergarten through third grade by one-third, i.e. from 30 students to 20 (Jepsen and Rivkin 2002). The main driving force behind this reduction was enhancing students’ academic achievement. As Jepsen and Rivkin (2002) argue, this CSR law had many drawbacks, including the need to increase the number of small size classes, which in turn required hiring teachers that were not necessarily experienced. Therefore, hiring large numbers of inexperienced teachers in response to CSR law had the potential to offset the direct benefits of smaller classes. Moreover, Finn and Gerber (2005) examine the effect of class size reduction in early grades (from Kindergarten to grade 3) on academic achievement and graduating from high school. Their research reveals that graduating from high school was related to early grades achievement in addition to the fact that attending small classes for 3 or more years increased the likelihood of graduating from high school. Therefore, it can be said that small size classes are a necessity in early grades of school. The results of both studies by Finn and Gerber (2005) and Jepsen and Rivkin (2002) suggest that upon deciding to adopt small size classes, such decisions should to be accompanied with relevant matters such as the capability and qualifications of the new teachers covering the increase of the number of small size classes.

    Blatchford et al. (2008) conducted a research on the effects of class size on the classroom interactions and students’ behaviour. They found out that more time is spent on task and more time is allocated to learning when secondary school students are placed in smaller classes, which in turn causes positive academic progress. Moreover, they state that placing secondary students in smaller classes lowers the rates of negative behaviour and enhances the pupil’s position as focus of the teacher’s attention.

    Therefore, small size classes have pros and cons that have to be weighed carefully before taking a final decision to adopt them.


    Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., and Brown, P. (2008). Do low attaining and younger students benefit most from small classes? Results from a systematic observation study of class size effects on pupil classroom engagement and teacher pupil interaction. Research Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting 2008, New York.

    Finn, J. D. and Gerber, S. B. (2005). Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating From High School. Journal of Educational Psychology, Volume 97 (2): 214 – 223.

    Jepsen, C. and Rivkin, S. (2002). Class Size Reduction, Teacher Quality, and Academic Achievement in California Public Elementary Schools. California: Public Policy Institute of California.

  4. Although you provided a balanced account of some of the advantages and disadvantages of smaller class sizes, there are other factors to take into account. Independent schools have a much smaller student teacher ration than comprehensive backgrounds, and class size is the ranked as the third most popular reason for selecting independent schools (Ipsos Mori, 2008). So it is important to consider that students in smaller class sizes may come from a more wealthy socio-economic background.
    A study by Hattie (2009) found that reducing the student-teacher ratio in itself is not as effective as other interventions. This is supported by Rivkin (2005) who found increasing teacher effectiveness is much better value for money, than manipulating class size. Giving a poor teacher a smaller group will not improve the teaching, and a good teacher will be effective regardless of the class size.
    This is not to say that smaller class sizes are bad. They have been shown to increase active interactions between students and teachers (CSPAR, 2003). However, it is important to recognise there are more efficient interventions and that differences in socio-economic background may contribute.

    Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.
    Blatchford, P., Russell, A., Bassett, P., Brown, P., & Martin, C. (2007). The role and effects of teaching assistants in English primary schools (Years 4 to 6) 2000–2003. Results from the Class Size and Pupil–Adult Ratios (CSPAR) KS2 Project. British Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 5-26.
    Ipsos Mori Survey (June 2008), http://www.ipsos-
    Jepsen, C., & Rivkin, S. (2009). Class Size Reduction and Student Achievement The Potential Tradeoff between Teacher Quality and Class Size. Journal of Human Resources, 44(1), 223-250.

  5. psueef

    Interesting blog, personally I completely agree with your conclusions that smaller class sizes are better for grades, this is from personal experience and to note that research backs it is brilliant.

    Even as early as the twelfth century class size was a topic of interest. Maimonides, a rabbinic scholar, proposed a maximum class size of 40, aptly called ‘Maimonides’ rule of 40’. In 1979 and 1982 respectively, Glass & Smith and Glass, Cahen, Smith & Filby’s widely cited meta-analyses research concludes that smaller class sizes raise children’s test scores. Leaving over 30 years to put these strong conclusions into good practice in the education system.

    This table shows that primary school classes have not really decreased over time. Although they still abide by Maimonides’ rule of 40, and a law put in place in by The School Standards and Framework Act (1998) which stated that infant maximum class size of 30 children to one teacher. The question still begs: are class sizes still too big?

    Glass, G. V., & Smith, M. L. (1979). Meta-analysis of research on class size and achievement. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 1(1), 2-16.

    Glass, G. V. (1982). School class size: Research and policy.

    School Standards and Framework Act

  6. Would an increase in the demand for teachers be a bad thing? It would increase the number of job opportunities and students would benefit from smaller class sizes. It has been found that by having small classes students take on a more active role, as they are given more individual attention and so smaller classes also benefit the quality of teaching (Blatchford, Russell, Bassett, Brown, & Martin, 2007). It has also been found that large class can have a negative effect on a student’s assessment of courses and lectures (Monks and Schmidt, 2010). Larger class sizes result in a decrease in engagement, especially for lower achieving pupils. Therefore lower achieving students benefit greatly from smaller class sizes due to more individual attention and the extra aid in engagement in learning (Blatchford, Bassett and Brown, 2011).

    Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., & Brown, P. (2011). Examining the effect of class size on classroom engagement and teacher–pupil interaction: Differences in relation to pupil prior attainment and primary vs. secondary schools. Learning and Instruction, 21(6), 715-730.
    Blatchford, P., Russell, A., Bassett, P., Brown, P., & Martin, C. (2007). The role and effects of teaching assistants in English primary schools (Years 4 to 6) 2000–2003. Results from the Class Size and Pupil–Adult Ratios (CSPAR) KS2 Project. British Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 5-26.
    Monks, J., & Schmidt, R. (2010). The impact of class size and number of students on outcomes in higher education.

  7. Jessica

    I agree with your points on why smaller class sizes could be beneficial for students. I think this area could have been studied in more detail though. Various different things could be taken into account such as whether it is beneficial across all subjects, all IQ levels or all ages.

    Mosteller (1995) conducted a study that aimed to determine the effects of smaller class size in lower grades (years) on short-term and long-term students performance. It was found that smaller classes substantially improved during early learning and cognitive studies. Also, minority children in smaller classes had double the effect size than majority children in regards to achievement levels. However, this ended up about the same in later years.

    Therefore, although class sizes have shown to be advantageous, this may only be the case for children in lower years, and it may not make much difference to children in secondary schools.

    This study had a sample size of 6,500 pupils and was spread roughly over 4 years, therefore can be regarded as very representative.

  8. Jessica

    (from the comment above)

    Mosteller, F. (1995). The Tennessee Study of Class Size in the Early School Grades. The Future of Children, 5(2). Retrieved from

  9. psuede1

    Project STAR (Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio), (Word et al,, 1994), found that smaller class size was followed by great improvements in subjects that were cognitive in nature such as in numeracy and literacy. This effect was found to follow on when the children were placed in a larger classroom with their peers as they outperformed them in both areas.

    An issue is however with the study previously mentioned in another’s comment is that a teacher/ student ratio is a crude indicator of assessing the time a teacher will actually spend with a pupil and also gives no indication of the quality of that time spent. Perhaps an issue appears of helping teachers to make more effective use of this extra time. (Cahen & Filby, 1979)

    Another issue when looking at these studies such as (Coleman et al., 1982; Chubb and Moe, 1990;) is that the teacher student ratio that is generated is done so for the entirety of the school staff and students and does not truly reflect the way that staff are dispersed within the school.

    Cahen, L. S., & Filby, N. N. (1979). The class size/achievement issue: New evidence and a research plan. The Phi Delta Kappan, 60(7), 492-538.

    Chubb, J. E., & Moe, T. M. (1990). America’s public schools: Choice is a panacea. The Brookings Review, 8(3), 4-12.

    Word, E.R., Johnston, J., Bain, H.P., et al. The state of Tennessee’s Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) Project: Technical report 1985–1990. Nashville: Tennessee State Department of Education, 1994.

  10. psuf3c

    One benefit of smaller classes is that children get a better interaction with the teacher which allows for the lessons to be taught in more depth if needed. Teachers of small classes are able to monitor more efficiently how well children are getting on. If a child is falling behind then in a smaller class they are more likely to get the attention that is needed from the teacher to enable them to learn. This is more beneficial for children who are low achievers because they are provided with the support that they need rather than being ignored. Further to this, in bigger classes teachers often have to spend longer trying to discipline some children rather than teaching. In smaller classes this is less of a problem because it is an easier number of children to manage.
    However, one argument against small class sizes is that children learn well when taught by another child and when they are able to teach each other which allows for deeper understanding of the topic. Group work in lessons can help to keep children engaged in the materials and keep motivation.
    Through this is can be seen that there are pros and cons of smaller class sizes, but overall they tend to lead to better understanding and higher quality of teaching. This is because it allows for lessons to be taught in a way that suits the children, and also allows for teachers to provide specific help for a certain child if they are struggling.

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