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smaller class sizes
05-04-2011, 10:25 AM
Post: #1
smaller class sizes
I saw on CNN yesterday that some schools are no longer using grades but are using levels and the age of the child has no barring on his level,The overall average scores have not increased but behavior problems have decreased by 76%.
My question is would there be a need for smaller class sizes for this to be effective? How can one teach several children on different levels at the same time?
I know there are educators on this forum, what is your opinion ?
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05-04-2011, 12:49 PM
Post: #2
RE: smaller class sizes
(05-04-2011 10:25 AM)Yefet Wrote:  I saw on CNN yesterday that some schools are no longer using grades but are using levels and the age of the child has no barring on his level,The overall average scores have not increased but behavior problems have decreased by 76%.
My question is would there be a need for smaller class sizes for this to be effective? How can one teach several children on different levels at the same time?
I know there are educators on this forum, what is your opinion ?

As a "former" educator (I taught electronics at a technical college), I don't believe there is any one pancea to solve all of educations problems. A smaller class size would of course help in that the teacher/instructor/professor could provide more one-on-one time with each student.

I simply don't understand this move away from grades in determining a student's level of learning, and whether or not to promote them to the next grade level. I have several cousins who teach at the grammar school level (grades 1 to 6 in the U.S.) and from what they tell me it is resulting in a "dumbing down" of the other students in their classes. The brighter kids get bored, lose interest, and end up learning at the same level as the "less bright" kids. Then they all end up being promoted to the next grade level (regardless of their grades) where the dumbing down process gets repeated, ad nauseum.
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05-04-2011, 12:55 PM (This post was last modified: 05-04-2011 02:49 PM by Painkiller.)
Post: #3
RE: smaller class sizes
I don't know enough about the American system to understand what the effect of the changes would actually be without more explanation, sorry Yef. Are you talking about mixed-age classes? I've never done it outside of small-group voluntary classes after school, but I've got mates who've done it in other countries and say that you can develop strategies for it like for anything else. I regularly teach classes with wildly mixed abilities, and it can be a pain, but again you learn how to build differentiation in to support the lower ability and stretch the higher, and how to exploit the kids' natural tendencies to help/compete with each other to bridge the gap.

Sorry if that's not really what you were asking, I think my brain has given up and shut down.

(05-04-2011 12:49 PM)digipixel Wrote:  As a "former" educator (I taught electronics at a technical college), I don't believe there is any one pancea to solve all of educations problems.

Money.

Actually, no, that's too simple. Let me try again:

Money, being spent by the people who actually understand what the problems are and what needs to be done to relieve them.

"Smaller class sizes" has long been a battle-cry of people who want to fix state (or public, if you're American) schools, and it's not inherently a bad idea, but it's not the magic solution many seem to think it is, and if you make the wrong sacrifices to achieve it it can end up being worse. I've heard of some places reducing class sizes by reducing non-contact time for teachers, for example, which I think is a terrible idea. Personally I'd be prepared to accept a 10% class size increase in exchange for a 10% increase in non-contact time - the planning and preparation I could get done in the extra time would increase the access to learning more than losing a few kids from the class. Like everything else you can spend public money on, education's a balance, and studies into the effectiveness of small reductions in class size are inconclusive. If you've got the money to significantly reduce class sizes while still maintaining the same quality of resources for all teaching groups and giving teachers a reasonable amount of non-contact time then you'll definitely see positive results, but if you live in the real world and don't have that level of funding, I honestly don't think class size is the most efficient thing to address in terms of measurable results.

A better understanding of pedagogy and the reality of the class room among people who make legislative and financial decisions would be nice too, and a way of directing a lot of the less specialist admin and paperwork elsewhere, freeing up teachers to plan and assess... okay, okay, I'll stop...
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05-04-2011, 02:46 PM
Post: #4
RE: smaller class sizes
I dont understand the logic behind it,It appeared that you can have a level 2 in history but a level 5 in math ect.
so in essence in a history class the teacher would have students of differant levels at the same time
one a level 2 the other a level 5.it would appear like digi said a dumbing down process unless the teacher is able to taylor a lesson to each level ? They seem to have a hard enough time presenting one general lesson.
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05-04-2011, 03:01 PM (This post was last modified: 05-04-2011 03:05 PM by Painkiller.)
Post: #5
RE: smaller class sizes
Part of the problem here is that we're speaking slightly different languages, and I'm not entirely sure what you mean by the words. In the UK we use levels from 1-8 (divided by a, b and sub-levels) to grade Key Stage 3 (11-13) pupils. Each subject levels the pupil seperately, and because kids (like all people) have different abilities and specialities, it's of course very common to get a kid who's a much higher level in one subject than another.

Pupils all stay in the same year group - being held back doesn't really happen in British state schools except in exceptional circumstances. Within the year group some schools set pupils (put them into groups matching their abilities) and others don't - there are arguments for and against setting in principle. Many schools have sets for some subjects but mixed-ability for others, and they're generally setted differently for different subjects. It's very common for me to have classes with level 3 and level 5 pupils in it - we use the word "differentiation" to describe a range of practices and strategies designed to take into account the different abilities in the class and try to ensure that all pupils are both supported and challenged. It's hard, of course, and I'm not going to pretend to be a master (frankly, I wouldn't trust anyone who did), but it's one of the skills of teaching you develop.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "unless the teacher is able to taylor a leson to each level"? That's kind of our job. And as for "they seem to have a hard enough time presenting one general lesson" - Bio and Strangelove are right, you ARE evil.
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05-04-2011, 03:20 PM (This post was last modified: 05-04-2011 03:27 PM by Yefet.)
Post: #6
RE: smaller class sizes
I think that is what these schools are trying to achieve here.It is customary for students to be lumped togeather in a grade 1-12 and taught the same lesson regardless of their level of understanding. 30 to 40 students is not unusual
That didn’t sound right did it ? I meant was because of class sizes and budget restraints they barley have time for one lesson much less individual lessons
So smaller class sizes is key,which would mean more teacher salarys, its a catch 22
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05-04-2011, 03:29 PM (This post was last modified: 05-04-2011 03:34 PM by Painkiller.)
Post: #7
RE: smaller class sizes
Around 30 is an average class size for here. My biggest class this year is 34, which is about the maximum of what I'd be willing to take on with current resources - though as I said, if the way of reducing sizes is to cut non-contact time I'd rather keep it as it is. I've taught bigger, and though it's not perfect there are ways around it. As I said before, I understand why people say that "class size is key", but it's not the only factor, and in some cases not even the most significant. It's a panacea, as dig said, and an easy one for people to get behind, but sacrificing other things to achieve can be a really bad idea.

If I understand what you're saying (and sorry if I don't), it's not about "individual lessons" for each pupil in the class, that's an impossible goal, but about differentiating within the lesson to cater for different kids' abilities. It's not (or shouldn't) be about a teacher standing at the front of the class, hitting the kids with one lump of knowledge - if you set more active activities or devolve more of the responsibility of learning onto the kids themselves (as you know yourself, you learn a lot more if you're guided to discover something than if you're just told it), you can alter the resources or tasks, or select student-groups to cater for different abilities. I know teachers who much prefer mixed-ability groups, as they feel that they can use the differences between the pupils to encourage group learning.

Sorry if this is a bit dull and preachy, I'm trying not to get too technical and I'm certainly not claiming that our education system is perfect (far bloody from it), but pedagogy is a developing skill, and there's a lot more to delivering a lesson than standing at the front talking. Please let me know if you'd like me to carry on like this - I'm happy to, but am concerned I might be getting a bit dull and taking your thread off topic.
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05-04-2011, 04:03 PM
Post: #8
RE: smaller class sizes
Thanks pain ,doing a little research on class sizes and results
I want to be more edgumakated on the subject. I was thinking a reduction in class size overall would help but I quess it all depends on the method of teaching and needs of the student, and one swooping reform isnt the answer
Guess I should stick to starting religious wars
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05-04-2011, 05:34 PM
Post: #9
RE: smaller class sizes
I know I'm jumping into this one a bit late, but we have a lot of issues in our school system that are similar to what Pain has described. I am a Adult and Vocational Education trained teacher but am currently working in training development for a military contractor.

Our school system is organised by year level as well. In Primary school (Years 1 to 7) the classes are simply arranged by age. In Secondary school (Years 8 to 12) the Years are arranged by age and in Year 8 to 10 the students study some core subjects, Maths, English, Science etc and these classes are broken up by ability as well. Once you get into Senior Secondary (Year 11 and 12) all subjects are elective as such but there are some mandatory subjects ie you must pick one maths subject etc and each class is a different level for example there are 5 different levels of Maths in QLD.

The major problems that our schools have is funding. The state school where I did my teaching prac last year each teacher had a quota for photo-coping and had to enter there PIN to operate the copier and had to make their quota stretch across the term, just as an example. It's slightly better in the private system but not by a lot and it depends on how much you are willing or able to pay for your child's education.

Another issue is that each state has it's own curriculum, which they are currently trying to change by introducing a National Curriculum. I don't know if you have heard any of the debacle that we are currently having over Religious Instruction versus Ethics classes in the national curriculum.

One of the big complaints here is the standard of teacher. Currently Teaching has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, University entry standards in just about every University in the country and it's almost impossible to attract the level of graduate that you would like to see as a teacher due to the salary offered to teachers.

The school where I did my prac asked me if I would come and teach their Aerospace classes this year, I am a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer by trade, as their current Aerospace teacher, who was a physics teacher, was retiring. The problem is, in my current job designing Training Packages for training Army Aircraft Technicians I would have to take a $35 000 pay cut to go and do it.

The main reason that I did a teaching degree was so I could go and teach in a high school but I can't afford to give up $35 000 a year to do it, especially with 2 yo triplets.

On top of that, because of the class load of public school teachers all preparation and marking is done in the teachers own time. My supervising teacher complained everyday that he had been up until midnight every night doing lesson prep and marking and then spent his entire weekend doing the same. And people have the hide to complain about how good teachers get it having all the school holidays off and pupil free days etc.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. - Nietzsche
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05-05-2011, 01:08 AM
Post: #10
RE: smaller class sizes
(05-04-2011 04:03 PM)Yefet Wrote:  Thanks pain ,doing a little research on class sizes and results
I want to be more edgumakated on the subject. I was thinking a reduction in class size overall would help but I quess it all depends on the method of teaching and needs of the student, and one swooping reform isnt the answer
Guess I should stick to starting religious wars

Don't worry Yef, and sorry if I talked your ear off - one thing that's true of all teachers is that we love to moan about teaching.

Smaller class sizes would be a good thing, but in my experience (supported by some studies) you don't start to see significant differences unless you're able to reduce sizes by quite a lot, and unless you've got huge amounts of money that would involve sacrifices that I don't think are worth making. In the short term I'd rather see class sizes stay the same, but teachers be given more time and support to plan and develop AfL strategies to deal with it.
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