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Rethinking Class Size

The complex story of impact on teaching and learning

Peter Blatchford and Anthony Russell

ISBN: 9781787358799

Publication: November 12, 2020

What is this?

The debate over whether class size matters for teaching and learning is one of the most enduring, and aggressive, in education research. Teachers often insist that small classes benefit their work. But many experts argue that evidence from research shows class size has little impact on pupil outcomes, so does not matter, and this dominant view has informed policymaking internationally. Here, the lead researchers on the world’s biggest study into class size effects present a counter-argument. Through detailed analysis of the complex relations involved in the classroom they reveal the mechanisms that support teachers’ experience, and conclude that class size matters very much indeed.

Drawing on 20 years of systematic classroom observations, surveys of practitioners, detailed case studies and extensive reviews of research, Peter Blatchford and Anthony Russell contend that common ways of researching the impact of class size are limited and sometimes misguided. While class size may have no direct effect on pupil outcomes, it has, they say, significant force through interconnections with classroom processes. In describing these connections, the book opens up the everyday world of the classroom and shows that the influence of class size is everywhere. It impacts on teaching, grouping practices and classroom management, the quality of peer relations, tasks given to pupils, and on the time teachers have for marking, assessments and understanding the strengths and challenges for individual pupils. From their analysis, the authors develop a new social pedagogical model of how class size influences work, and identify policy conclusions and implications for teachers and schools.

Praise for Rethinking Class Size

'I find the book both refreshing and rewarding. I would recommend the Introduction to anyone who wishes to read a concise discussion of the topic both in the UK and internationally. The subsequent text extends and deepens the discussion, examining the major research projects that the writers undertook and mines them for answers to the conundrums they are examining. Chapter 4 is a key chapter because it investigates in detail the effect of class size on teaching. Yet, there is far more to this book since the discussion extends to peer relations in Chapter 6, the curriculum in Chapter 7, classroom processes and administration and ends with a concluding examination of the implications for practice and policy. This final discussion seems to me not only to be genuinely the summation of a vast amount of research but also extremely good sense. The book is extremely well written and the style of writing is accessible as well as being scholarly. Anyone involved in education should find this an interesting text and for those with a special in interest in class size, such as researchers or post-graduate students working on the topic, it will be a key text. Indeed, I would say that this is an important book in the field of Education since it makes a very significant contribution to an ongoing debate and I recommend it highly.'
Education 3-13, Mark Brundrett, Emeritus Professor of Education, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

‘This book is sorely needed. It is evidence based, it is comprehensive, it is engaging, and it will add immeasurably to the debates and literature.’
John Hattie, Laureate Professor, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Peter Blatchford is Professor in Psychology and Education at the UCL Institute of Education.

Anthony Russell has had an international career in teaching, teacher training, curriculum development and education research.

List of tables, figures and boxes

Glossary and abbreviations

About the authors

Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

2.  Understanding class size effects, and our research approach

3.  Class size and pupil outcomes

4.  Class size and classroom processes: Teaching

5.  Class size and classroom processes: Grouping practices and classroom management

6.  Class size and classroom processes: Peer relations

7.  Class size and classroom processes: The curriculum and tasks

8.  Class size and classroom processes: Administrative aspects of teaching

9.  Class size and differences between pupils, particularly those with SEND

10. Bringing it all together: Toward a social pedagogy of classroom learning

11.  Conclusions

References
Index

'I find the book both refreshing and rewarding. I would recommend the Introduction to anyone who wishes to read a concise discussion of the topic both in the UK and internationally. The subsequent text extends and deepens the discussion, examining the major research projects that the writers undertook and mines them for answers to the conundrums they are examining. Chapter 4 is a key chapter because it investigates in detail the effect of class size on teaching. Yet, there is far more to this book since the discussion extends to peer relations in Chapter 6, the curriculum in Chapter 7, classroom processes and administration and ends with a concluding examination of the implications for practice and policy. This final discussion seems to me not only to be genuinely the summation of a vast amount of research but also extremely good sense. The book is extremely well written and the style of writing is accessible as well as being scholarly. Anyone involved in education should find this an interesting text and for those with a special in interest in class size, such as researchers or post-graduate students working on the topic, it will be a key text. Indeed, I would say that this is an important book in the field of Education since it makes a very significant contribution to an ongoing debate and I recommend it highly.'
  Education 3-13, Mark Brundrett, Emeritus Professor of Education, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
'This book sets itself up as a powerful and evidence-rich ‘pushback’ against the statisticians and economists who rarely (if at all) attempt to connect the implications of class size to teaching and learning processes. The book makes the point that the classroom environment is often taken for granted and so the focus on learning contexts is timely and well presented. The data sources for the book are impressive. it proposes a new theoretical model which is truly an international contribution to the field and builds on previous research and work conducted across continents. It will prompt further debate among stakeholders. I congratulate the authors on a brave, bold and necessary book.'
  Dr Gary Harfitt, University of Hong Kong

‘This book is sorely needed. It is evidence based, it is comprehensive, it is engaging, and it will add immeasurably to the debates and literature. [It] will move the debate from “class size does or does not make a difference” to what classroom processes are involved, and what else do we need to do in classrooms to justify the substantive costs involved. It is likely to become the go-to book on the topic for some time.’
John Hattie, Laureate Professor, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

 


 

Format: Open Access PDF

328 Pages

B&W illustrations

Copyright: © 2020

ISBN: 9781787358799

Publication: November 12, 2020

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