Class Size and Visions of Teaching

Patients waiting on hospital trolleys. Long waiting lists for social and affordable housing. Services and systems often struggle to match resources with what people need.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation has justifiably been a consistent advocate for smaller class sizes in primary schools for many years. So strong and focused have they been in their advocacy that one former ministerial advisor describes them as “the best lobbyists in the business.”

Smaller classes make it possible to get to know children in your class better. You have more time to spend with individual children listening to them reading or helping them with concepts they find difficult to learn. With smaller classes you can more thoroughly check children’s written work and give children thoughtful feedback.

Despite these benefits of small classes, most of us have learned and taught in large classes (of 22+ children), and therefore we have few examples from experience of how teaching could be different if classes were smaller. Without such examples, it can be difficult to imagine how teaching could be different in a smaller class.

Occasionally, due to the vagaries of student numbers, a teacher may be lucky enough to teach in a class with low numbers. Visions of how teaching could be different in a small class could inspire such a teacher.

How would you teach differently if you had a smaller class? How small would the class need to be for you to implement the changes? How would what the children do differ? How would the teacher’s role change? Which subjects would be taught most differently?

Answering these questions would make concrete arguments for reducing class sizes.

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