Experts say class size has little impact

Stuff reports:

Labour’s proposal to reduce class sizes at schools has failed to win a universal gold star, with experts saying the small cuts without improving teaching would do little to raise the bar of student achievement.

Associate Professor John O’Neill, of Massey University’s Institute of Education, said the Labour Party’s proposal to cut school class sizes if elected in September would not achieve much without changes to teaching itself.

At the Labour election-year congress yesterday, leader David Cunliffe announced the party would fund an extra 2000 teachers, which would see primary and secondary school classes shrink by an average of three students by 2018.

But O’Neill said recent research suggested making classes slightly larger or smaller did not greatly alter the achievement levels for average students.

Indeed. Here’s a list of the 105 things which have been found to have a larger impact on student achievement than class size.

  1. Self-reported grades
  2. Piagetian programs
  3. Providing formative evaluation
  4. Micro teaching
  5. Acceleration
  6. Classroom behavioral
  7. Comprehensive interventions for learning disabled students
  8. Teacher clarity
  9. Reciprocal teaching
  10. Feedback
  11. Teacher-Student relationships
  12. Spaced vs. Mass Practice
  13. Meta-cognitive strategies
  14. Prior achievement
  15. Vocabulary programs
  16. Repeated Reading programs
  17. Creativity Programs
  18. Self-verbalization & Self-questioning
  19. Professional development
  20. Problem solving teaching
  21. Not labeling students
  22. Teaching strategies
  23. Cooperative vs. individualistic learning
  24. Study skills
  25. Direct Instruction
  26. Tactile stimulation programs
  27. Phonics instruction
  28. Comprehension programs
  29. Mastery learning
  30. Worked examples
  31. Home
  32. Socioeconomic status
  33. Concept mapping
  34. Challenging Goals
  35. Visual-Perception programs
  36. Peer tutoring
  37. Cooperative vs. competitive learning
  38. Pre-term birth weight
  39. Classroom cohesion
  40. Keller’s PIS
  41. Peer influences
  42. Classroom management
  43. Outdoor/Adventure Programs
  44. Interactive video method
  45. Parental Involvement
  46. Play Programs
  47. Second/Third chance programs
  48. Small group learning
  49. Concentration/Persistence/Engagement
  50. missing
  51. Motivation
  52. Early Intervention
  53. Questioning
  54. Pre school programs
  55. Quality of Teaching
  56. Writing Programs
  57. Expectations
  58. School size
  59. Self-concept
  60. Mathematics programs
  61. Behavioral organizers/Adjunct questions
  62. missing
  63. Cooperative learning
  64. Social skills programs
  65. Reducing anxiety
  66. Integrated Curricula Programs
  67. Enrichment
  68. Career Interventions
  69. Time on Task
  70. Computer assisted instruction
  71. Adjunct aids
  72. Bilingual Programs
  73. Principals/School leaders
  74. Attitude to Mathematics/
  75. Exposure to Reading
  76. Drama/ Programs
  77. Creativity
  78. Frequent/Effects of testing
  79. Decreasing disruptive behavior
  80. Drugs
  81. Simulations
  82. Inductive teaching
  83. Ethnicity
  84. Teacher effects
  85. Inquiry based teaching
  86. Ability grouping for gifted students
  87. Homework
  88. Home visiting
  89. Exercise/Relaxation programs
  90. Desegregation
  91. Mainstreaming
  92. Teaching test taking & coaching
  93. Use of calculators
  94. Values/Moral Education Programs
  95. Competitive vs. individualistic learning
  96. Special College Programs
  97. Programmed instruction
  98. Summer school
  99. Finances
  100. Illness (Lack of)
  101. Religious Schools
  102. Individualised instruction
  103. Visual/Audio-visual methods
  104. Comprehensive Teaching Reforms
  105. Class size

Now remember this doesn’t come from one study. This is a from a meta-analysis of 50,000 different studies. There have been 96 studies just on class size, and they have found the impact on learning is quite minor.

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