In many high schools today the needs of individual students are overlooked in the competitive race to meet performance standards. Some of these students are not successful. They may develop behavioral problems, disengage from their education, or drop out entirely. Many simply do not reach their potential. In response, educators are beginning to reconsider the value of small when it comes to school and class size.
Micro-schools like Blyth-Templeton Academy intentionally limit class size to provide an environment where students and teachers know each other well and can deeply probe the course content together. For example, our average class size is eight.
If the classroom continues to be the crucible of knowledge, it needs to be as efficient and effective as possible. While that once meant getting bigger, now it often means going smaller. At Blyth-Templeton we have learned that, with smaller class sizes, education professionals are able to come up with innovative classroom solutions that keep students engaged.
The Student-Centered Classroom
When teachers have specialized knowledge of their students' strengths and interests, they have an edge on communicating with those children in the most effective and helpful ways possible. We have seen that the small student-centered classroom encourages student engagement and promotes student success.
- Students can spend more one-on-one time with teachers and other students when there are fewer people per class. With a less crowded room, students and teachers get to know each other on a deeper basis.
- Teachers can quickly assess how a small class responds to different kinds of assignments and better judge students' interest in and grasp of the material being studied.
- Smaller class sizes also lead to a more democratic classroom. When teachers and students can openly communicate about school lessons, a shared decision-making emerges that empowers students to become more engaged in their school experience.
These types of culture changes tend to happen organically at small schools, where students and faculty can form a trusting bond. The transformed structure of the small classroom supports:
- Deeper learning through more discussion
- Less lecture and more hands-on exploration and research
- Longer class periods focused on fewer subject areas
- Online and experiential learning allowing the student to individualize study
Student-Teacher Relationships Change
When teachers can focus on learning, instead of discipline, they can facilitate miracles. Too often at larger schools, hours of instructional time are lost to behavioral problems. In small schools classes can move forward at a faster clip while still ensuring that every student is keeping up with the material. In a small school, students who might act out from boredom or frustration get the attention they need. We find that small class sizes allow teachers to spend more time with students and help them be successful when learning difficult material.
A Sense of Community Develops
Smaller schools foster a greater sense of community. The hallmark of some small private schools is their commitment to small class sizes where students can learn and practice respect for each other and themselves. For example, small classes help to reduce the type of social climate that can lead to bullying. At its core, bullying amounts to a recurring kind of aggression. Children and teens who feel left out or passed over can resort to aggressive behaviors as an attempt to “correct” their perceived understanding of the social order. Bullied students often withdraw and virtually "disappear" from the eyes of a busy teacher focused on classroom management.
Community is built through empathy. As students interact with peers in small classes, they will come to understand and appreciate the differences among them. Small schools with innovative approaches to learning can make a big difference in the lives of students, families, and the adults of tomorrow.