When it comes to classes, small is better

May 01, 2014
When it comes to classes, small is better

Small classes, especially in the first four years of school, can have an important and lasting impact on student achievement, a new report shows.

In a review of over 100 papers from 1979-2014, education expert Dr David Zyngier from Monash University's Faculty of Education looked at whether the conclusions reached on the effect of smaller class sizes still hold true today.

"The question of class size continues to attract the attention of educational policymakers and researchers alike," Dr Zyngier said.

"Many argue that much of Australia's increased expenditure on education in the last 30 years has been 'wasted' on efforts to reduce class sizes because that extra funding has not led to improved academic results."

However Dr Zyngier found that current policy advice is based on 'cherry picking' of flawed research evidence from a US conservative think tank' and that a range of independent studies throws doubt on that argument.

His review drew on a wide range of studies from Australia and other similar education systems including non-English speaking countries of Europe, as well as England, Canada and New Zealand. All assessed how class size affected academic results. Dr Zyngier also looked at whether other variables such as teaching methods were taken into account in the results.

The findings suggest that smaller class sizes in the first four years of school can have a significant and lasting impact on . This appears to be especially important for children from communities that are culturally, linguistically or economically disenfranchised.

"Smaller in the early years can lift a child's academic performance right through to Year 12 and even into tertiary study and employment," Dr Zyngier said.

"It is also beneficial to have smaller numbers for specialist classes in such fields as numeracy and literacy."

Dr Zyngier said the cost of keeping classes small had to be weighed against the long-term cost to the community of less-effective education.

There was also a need for a new approach to teacher development, he said.

"Currently teaching methodology is based on large classes, which call for a very different approach to teaching smaller groups," Dr Zyngier said.

"Targeted funding for specific lessons and schools, combined with professional development of teachers, would address the inequality of schooling and help redress the damaging effect that poverty, violence, inadequate child care and other factors have on our children's learning," Dr Zyngier said.

Explore further: Moving 'quality' teachers between schools will not help disadvantaged children

More information: The study findings are available online: journal.anzsog.edu.au/publicat… ceBase2014Issue1.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Class size matters to those who struggle most

Feb 03, 2012

Research shows that class size does matter; and that it matters most for socio-economically disadvantaged learners, the very groups that the Government says it is most concerned about, says Massey University Professor of ...

School starting age: The evidence

Sep 25, 2013

Earlier this month the "Too Much, Too Soon" campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David ...

Recommended for you

Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

1 hour ago

The musical rebels of the past are today's museum pieces. Pop music is increasingly penetrating heritage institutions such as museums and archives. That is apparent from the PhD research of Arno van der Hoeven. On Thursday ...

Helping older employees stay in their jobs

1 hour ago

Factors that can hinder older employees from continuing to work include workload, a poor memory and the pensionable age-effect. The Job-Exposure Matrix is a newly developed instrument that provides an easy way to chart the ...

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

3 hours ago

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you've probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept, which appears to be frustrating members of the distance edu ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.