King's-Edgehill School is a small private independent school that is very proud of its small class sizes. At KES, our average class size is15 students. The smaller class sizes allow teachers to customize lessons to the students within the class and meet each student where he or she is on each subject. This promotes engaged student learning, and the benefits are clear. Here are just a few.
Improved Classroom Atmosphere
When teachers are able to give students more individual attention, the entire classroom atmosphere changes. The teacher, instead of having to teach to the student who is at the lowest level, is able to be flexible and use a variety of instructional approaches. The teacher can even vary assignments between students at different levels in order to ensure that every student gets what he or she needs. This helps each student feel comfortable with the material and appreciate the context of the subject matter.
When each student is working at a level of comfort, there are bound to be fewer distractions in the classroom. There are fewer interruptions from students trying to catch up, and students who have completed material do not have idle time in which to distract each other. Students at every level of subject competence get the personal attention they need and are challenged in their own way.
Better Teacher Knowledge
Teachers in small classes are more likely to get to know their students on a one on one basis. They will be able to recognize issues that might arise and offer extra help. They will also identify those students who excel in certain areas. Any knowledge a teacher can gain on a student will only help the teacher teach that student more.
Less Discipline Issues
Smaller class sizes inevitably leads to fewer discipline problems. Since teachers do not have to spend as much time lecturing students, they have more time to teach and instruct. This advances the class as a whole as well as each individual student.
Students who get a broad overview on a subject in a normal class may not be all that interested in the topic. In a small class there is more opportunity to examine concepts in greater depth and identify individual interests in a subject. With a closer look at everything, students can decide if the topic is something that may open up career possibilities for them.
Small class size also leads to higher achievement. Teachers are able to teach to each student at the proper level, leading each of them to make larger strides on the subject. Any student that needs help gets it and any student that excels gets to advance without waiting for the rest of the class.
In a small class there is space and time for students to pursue a train of thought. As a recent example, the Rev’s Grade 10 English Honours Class was studying Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex. This lead to a little lesson on the Greek Alphabet. The exercise resulted in a number of interesting questions about language, especially about letters and names. "Why," Kyle Wagner asked perceptively, “Do the Greek letters have names?" This was a question that prompted some interesting ideas. The class explored that in English, for example, the letters of the alphabet are signified by their phonetic properties. But in Greek and Hebrew, the letters have actual names: epsilon for ‘e’, theta for ‘th’. One finds remnants of this in some modern languages: y grec in French (i griega in Spanish), and ‘w’ in English which means double ‘u’ (upsilon). Jacob Taljaard noted how useful some knowledge of Greek and Latin would be for studying the sciences and this led to a discussion about Linnaeus’ classifications. Students were intrigued to make an attempt to transliterate their own names into Greek.
In this case, the small class size enabled a digression, stirred up some questions, and resulted in valuable critical thinking about language.
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