Nicholson Baker, the author of Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids
The good thing about having several teachers is that if one of them is not very good, you only have him or her for part of the day. Also, shuffling from class to class breaks up the monotony and allows for brief jokey chats in the hallway.
During class, side conversations seem to sprout when a class goes above five students. Chaos is logarithmic. One micro-class made up of one, or two, or three students, plus a sympathetic tutor, can get more done in an hour than a roomful of 25 bored, loud fidgeters plus a shouting, pleading instructor can accomplish in a week.
Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education
Ask elementary-school parents if they prefer their child be in a class of 15 or a class of 30, and you can bet what their answer will be! If you want to know whether low class size is valued, just look at the class sizes of exclusive private schools.
Lower class size has been associated with higher achievement, better test scores, higher student self esteem, lower dropout rates, and other positive outcomes. The effects of lower class size are especially beneficial for disadvantaged students, especially in the early grades. The most extensive study ever on class size, the Tennessee STAR study, showed that the positive effects of smaller class sizes were doubled for poor and minority students.
In a recent research brief on class size, the National Education Policy Center identified class sizes of 15-18 to be ideal, with the understanding that there would be some variation in some classes, such as larger classes for band or for physical education.
Ideally, every classroom will have two teachers, or at least one teacher and a well-trained assistant. An extra set of eyes on the work of learners can provide invaluable feedback and assistance to the lead teacher.
Catherine Cushinberry, the executive director of Parents for Public Schools
I like the idea of team teaching, especially for subjects like science and math where students could benefit from more one-on-one attention from teachers. I don’t think teachers always feel like they can, singularly, meet the needs of all of their students. There will be a ratio of no more than 1:16 for cooperative learning, so students can be broken down into groups of four or even dyads. For younger students, 3- to 7-year-olds, the classroom sizes would have a ratio of 1:5 in order to foster the development of relationships between the teacher and younger students. I would avoid a 1:1 ratio because it would exclude the social engagement and development students benefit from as part of the learning experience.
Michael Horn, the co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute
The notion of “teacher” will change significantly in the future. The growing number of formal and informal learning options is causing an unbundling of the teacher role. Whereas in the traditional, one-size-fits-all learning model, teachers are responsible for everything that happens in the classroom, as blended learning—online learning in schools—grows, students will experience multiple learning modalities originating from multiple sources. Sometimes they will connect with a teacher online to learn something, and other times they’ll work with a teacher in person to understand a concept. This creates opportunities for teachers to specialize, particularly in schools where teachers work in teams in the same learning environment. In the future, we will see teachers choose among a variety of options, including:
- Content experts who focus on developing curriculum
- Small-group leaders who provide direct instruction
- Project designers to supplement online learning with hands-on application
- Mentors who provide wisdom, social capital, and guidance
- Evaluators to whom other educators can give the responsibility of grading assignments and, in some cases, designing assessments
- Data experts