Psychology Explained: The Effect of Class Size on Academic and Social Learning
From a class of one in home school to public schools struggling with overpopulation, there are endless configurations of class sizes in today’s educational process. Educators have known for years that size matters – particularly when it comes to literacy instruction. While it would be great if all kids could have their own teacher and learn in a one-on-one environment, this is only an option that could exist in a perfect world. The reality is that we’re consistently dealing with overcrowding, zoning issues, the elimination of recess, overworked teachers, and a host of other educational complications.
Despite all of these challenges, though, with so much research showing the benefits of smaller class size, isn’t there something we can do? From the National Assessment of Educational Progress to the American Psychological Association, there’s research everywhere that showcases how academic and social learning are influenced by that ever-important student-to-teacher ratio. Let’s look at the facts:
Classroom size has a direct correlation to engagement. The smaller the class, the more the children are encouraged to engage in daily activities, discussions, and interactions. This increased engagement improves motor coordination, cognitive abilities, auditory skills, and social confidence.
Literacy skills are impacted most as a result of smaller classroom size. Jessica Cuthbertson from the Center of Teaching Quality’s TransformED recently raved about a literacy program at her school where she works with students in a group of 10 of less. Not only are the children more engaged during the 3-hour session, but they also advance quickly and develop a love for reading and critical comprehension when working in small groups. This eventually led to an extracurricular book club.
No child left behind comes to life in that teachers can more easily distinguish if a child is falling behind in a small class setting. Because they’re working with fewer children, educators in smaller classes can ensure that everyone understands and comprehends the lesson before moving forward. This is the true form of no child being left behind in education today.
Despite the proven psychological and educational benefits that smaller class size provides, the reality is that budget cuts across the nation are making this impossible. When school finances are limited, the most productive use of educational financing is considered – and unfortunately, class size is rarely considered the priority. So what are the alternatives or solutions?
While charter, private, and home schooling are all guaranteed ways to accomplish a smaller class size, these aren’t always feasible or economical options. Instead, investing and encouraging extracurricular activities in today’s school systems is one of the prime ways to ensure children get the focus from educators they deserve. From sports to a book club, extracurricular activities not only provide educational benefits, but they also inspire a genuine love of learning in children – and that’s what education is all about! To learn more about the psychology of class size, be sure to check out this research from the University of London and Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D.