4 Benefits of Small Class Sizes

Small class sizes work.

23 July 2019

There’s no science or trick to it, it’s just simple math: the more students a teacher has in class, the fewer chances they have of getting to know them. This is crucial to teaching because when you know your student on a deeper level, you can connect with them. You will know how to improve their weaknesses and develop their strengths. You will be able to produce a high-performing student. Small class sizes are an important part of our academics at Institut Montana and here are four reasons why.

1. Building a Personal Relationship

Let’s picture a class of 30 students. You will find the very engaged ones most likely sitting in the front, eager to answer questions and always attracting the teacher's attention with their constant hand waving in the air. You then have the students that are maybe more shy, unmotivated or uninvolved sitting in the back, often hiding or going unnoticed. If a student is struggling in this class, this is especially worrisome as they will only continue to fall behind. Now, in a much smaller class, there is no place to hide and there is more or less equal opportunity to participate and be engaged in class. As several teachers point out, when class sizes are too large, you cannot be as personal. You cannot know a student as well as you can and this is paramount to help that student grow to their full potential. In the end, with small class sizes, students are allowed to voice their opinions and improve their critical thinking. There is time for deeper discussion and understanding of the subject that is being taught. Overall, the student will perform much better because they will know the subject. 

2. Teachers Can Teach

Let’s imagine a big travel group. If you’re the tour guide trying to manage 50 travellers, you will soon get a headache. This is because there will always be someone that misses the meeting time so then your schedule for the day will have to be amended or worse, cancelled. There might be someone that decides to skip out on an event or create a fuss over something and this not only hinders your job but the group in general. The same arises in a classroom of more than 20 students. No matter the age, behaviour issues always arise and they are less manageable when class sizes become bigger. On the other hand, a small group creates a better working dynamic, increases teamwork and collaboration skills and allows teachers to do what they do best - teach.

3. Performance is Better

Various studies prove time and again that smaller class sizes result in better academic results. “One comprehensive study, commissioned by the US Department of Education, looked at the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools across the nation, as measured by their performance on standardised exams. The data included at least 50 schools in each state, including those from large and small, urban and rural, affluent and poor areas. After controlling for student background, the only objective factor that was found to be correlated with higher student success was class size, not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify. What was even more striking is that these achievement gains were more strongly linked to smaller classes in the upper rather than the lower grades.” 

These studies aren’t only limited to the US, and no matter the country, the results are always the same: small class sizes offer students the upper-hand needed to succeed academically.

4. Getting the Bigger Picture

Especially at private boarding schools, such as Institut Montana, we don’t just teach the material, we have students embody what they learn. As part of our educational philosophy, we don’t just teach Spanish to teach Spanish, for instance, but we teach the subject in a larger context. You don’t just learn Spanish but you go on a weekend trip to Madrid, you learn from a native Spanish-speaker and you are taught in a small group so that no one is left behind. This would not be possible with a large class size. Small groups allow you to work closely with your teacher and peers so that the classroom is transformed into a communal atmosphere which provides optimal conditions to maintain your grades and excel.

This is the approach that we take to help our students grow and why they can succeed in their university studies and future career. Sometimes, size does matter.

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