Why does the glee with which the media grabs onto reports that say class sizes don't matter make me grind my teeth?
In my teaching life, which began over 4 decades ago, I began with huge classes, the like of which we don't see these days. Teaching 44 exceptionally bright 14 year olds for English, History and Maths in my first year on the job, in a large metropolitan high school, was fortunately not something I had to repeat much in ensuing years. But as time went on, the classes became smaller. Just as well, or I certainly would have been the victim of early burnout.
I certainly believe that, although there is a critical mass of brains to rub together that you need in a class, the smaller the class, the better outcomes the teacher can deliver. Somewhere between 20 and 25 students is what I prefer. It makes preparation and marking manageable, as well as getting to know your students in detail.
Today's media posts are both related to the publication of the Gratton report.
The Australian says GOVERNMENTS waste millions of dollars in education on expensive and ineffectual programs to reduce class sizes. While the Adelaide Advertiser headlines SMALLER classes are a waste of money and do not improve students' results as much as having higher-skilled and innovative teachers, an education policy expert says.
Worth discussing though are the listing by the Grattan Institute's director of school education, Ben Jensen, of five main mechanisms to improve teaching standards:
- improving the quality of applicants to become teachers;
- improving the quality of their initial education and training;
- evaluating and providing feedback to teachers once they're in classrooms;
- recognising and rewarding effective teachers;
- and moving on ineffective teachers who are unable to improve.
I don't think there would be one teacher who wouldn't like to see the last 3 happen.