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March 15, 2017

4 min

Method Schools Team

How Does a Small Class Size Change Your Child's Education?

In many cases, you hear the buzz about a concept long before you're able to see what actual results it will have for your student. "Small class sizes" sound great. You understand that's something important for your child's education. Unfortunately, what you really want to know is how much of a difference that will really make in your child's overall education. Whether you have a gifted learner, a student who falls squarely in the middle of the road, or a student who is struggling to keep up with their peers, your child can experience many of the benefits of a smaller class size--and it's not just about a better relationship with their instructors and fewer distractions.

Increased Achievement

Small class sizes lead to increased achievements among the students in them. It's not just a blanket statement; research shows that students in classrooms with a lower student/teacher ratio have:

  • Higher scores on standardized tests in all of their subject areas
  • Advanced knowledge of their subjects, including up to two months' more learning on the subject than their peers in classrooms with more students
  • Continued academic and life success even after they leave the smaller classroom behind: students who came from small classrooms have increased earning potential in the workforce
  • Students who began in small classes are less likely to be retained in later grades or to drop out of school

These advantages don't just benefit your child while they're in a classroom with a smaller size. The one-on-one attention helps them to build a firmer academic foundation that increases their odds of success long after they leave their small classes behind. The academic gains don't disappear; instead, they grow along with your child's increasing knowledge and capability.

Deeper Understanding of Critical Concepts

There are some foundational skills that your child needs in order to succeed, not only within the classroom, but long after they leave school behind--and many of those concepts are best taught by a teacher who has a small student population to worry about, rather than one who is forced to spread their attention among a wide group of students.

Writing skills are best taught in a small group because it allows teachers to see what specific skills each student needs to work on and shape more individualized instruction based on those skills. Learning how to write requires a number of specialized skills in addition to the broad skills that most people think about when they imagine sitting down behind a keyboard or with pen and paper in hand. In many cases, students who have gaps in their learning that don't fit in with their peers' weaknesses may struggle to get the help they need to fill in those gaps. Students in small classes, on the other hand, will get the help they need to excel through the feedback they receive on their performance on each draft.

Basic concepts are easier to teach in small classrooms, and students show the benefits! Students who are in small classes have a better grasp of the basic concepts they've been taught. Because student engagement increases in small classes, students are more likely to actively engage in learning, improving their understanding of these concepts.

Why It Works

Simply shrinking down the number of students in a classroom isn't enough to change the quality of students' learning. The difference is in the type and quality of instruction that students are able to receive in a learning environment where they aren't lost in a sea of faces. While fewer distractions and increased social interaction due to a more intimate setting are useful, the real difference is in the way teachers present the information students are able to learn. Students in small classes are more likely to have lessons that include:

  • Direct, personal feedback from their teachers
  • Project-based learning that allows them to explore new concepts at their own pace, rather than being constrained by a lesson plan
  • Improved interaction between the teacher or teachers and the students within each classroom
  • More detailed lesson plans that include opportunities to reteach, different learning styles, and other techniques geared toward instruction in a smaller classroom
  • Better reteaching options, from help when they don't understand a concept to the opportunities given to make up work when a child has been ill or out of school for another reason

It's not the environment itself that makes the critical difference for most students. Rather, it's the attitude that goes along with it: the commitment to ensuring individualized attention for every student in the classroom, whether it's a classroom of 16-18 or a classroom of 20 or more.

Who Benefits Most?

It's important to note that not all students benefit equally from small classroom sizes. Some student populations are simply more likely to experience high benefit levels from a small class size, including minorities, students with learning disabilities, and students who come from poor backgrounds. For these students, a smaller class size can substantially narrow the opportunity gap and allow them to increase their performance in ways they never thought possible.

Receiving an education that incorporates all of the opportunities offered by small class sizes allows your student to attain goals they never imagined possible. While it won't guarantee student success, a small class is a starting place that will allow your child to experience better, higher-quality instruction from teachers who are able to interact with them on a more personal level every day that they're at school.


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