Rethinking Class Size

The complex story of impact on teaching and learning

Peter Blatchford and Anthony Russell

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ISBN: 9781787358805

Publication: November 12, 2020

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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.

The book is an invaluable contribution to the international debate on class size.

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



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 Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

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

11  Conclusions


‘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: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

340 Pages

B&W illustrations

Copyright: © 2020

ISBN: 9781787358805

Publication: November 12, 2020

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