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A trademark of private education, small class sizes have been drawing parents and struggling students to private schools for generations. The benefits of smaller classes have been proven in study after study, and most teachers will tell you intuitively that working with fewer children more personally improves the atmosphere and overall learning quality in the classroom.
Students are more confident and teachers more relaxed, making for a less stressful environment
Particularly for younger students, class sizes with less than 17 children can greatly benefit development, especially in reading and mathematics. The lower student to teacher ratio also helps draw young children out of their shell and grow in confidence.
Most research studies have focused on the effects of small class sizes in the younger years, but individualized attention is an advantage for students at every level.
It is well known that no two children learn the same way, so when a large group of children are combined in one classroom not all will benefit from the lesson in the same way.
Smaller classes take less of a “one size fits all” approach, and the teacher has the ability to tailor lessons more specifically to different students. Fewer children allow teachers to get to know students, their distinct learning styles and needs, and more time with each student also means more time to address individual questions and explain difficult concepts to students.
To see the impact that a small class size can have on a student, one need not look further than Robert, a Grade 12 student at Tapply Binet College (TBC) in Ancaster, Ontario.
At his previous school, Robert was headed down the wrong path. He wasn't taking university-level classes, nor was he even attending the classes he was enrolled in. Struggling with ADD, his average was in the 60s, and his plans for the future were virtually non-existent. He knew something had to change.
The teacher-student relationship in small classes often helps educators identify learning disabilities and emotional issues early so students can receive the support they need – something that may have helped Robert earlier on in his education. Luckily, he was able to take advantage of small class sizes when he had the chance and is now turning things around.
After only a year at Tapply Binet, which offers classes consisting of one to six students, Robert is earning 90s and will attend Guelph University in the psychology co-op program next year.
The individual attention he receives in classes, the close relationships with teachers and the confidence he gets from seeing the results of his hard work have transformed his relationship with learning.
The atmosphere in small classes is also different. Making friends is easier at all grade levels, and students generally graduate with a close group of friends. Students are more confident and teachers more relaxed, making for a less stressful environment where everyone feels more at home.
"It's weird, every day I want to go to school. At Tapply, I think 'I can do this, I am able, I have the potential to succeed,'" Robert says.