The Class Size Issue in Project Based Subjects
The relationship between class size and project based subjects is inverse compared to studies that look at traditional courses where instruction is rote, and the differentiation needs to be very focused.
Of the top 22 Hattie indicators (The Hattie data can be viewed here. ), 10 connect directly to courses that at project based:
- Self Report Grades
- Piagetian Programs
- Response to Intervention
- Cognitive Task Analysis
- Classroom Discussion
- Teacher Clarity (Students Questioning Teacher Instruction)
- Reciprocal Teaching (6 Facets of Understanding)
- Formative Evaluation
- Self Questioning
Class size has been a central focus in nearly every school improvement plan I have been connect with. In fact, I recently helped build a schedule that was nearly solely dictated by class size.
As some one who solely works in project based subjects, team driven contests, and peer reviewed assessment I can attest that small classes are detrimental to learning in these environments.
When a class falls below 12 students, the student input, instances of serendipitous discoveries, the diversity of teams, and the needed conflict to fuel trial and error scenarios all diminish. To be clear: the class becomes boring and stagnant.
Students need to be formed and re-formed into teams and groups in a project based environment. They need variety of opinion. They need to take the lead and be the teacher; they need to lead their peers; and they need their peers to explain “what went wrong” when failure happens. And failure will happen more often than trophies are presented.
If a class size is too small, this process (learning spiral) becomes repetitive and predictable. In my experience, small classes can be a stimulus for groupthink.