I get frustrated when teacher conversations and politician headlines about education ignore research.
Today Mr Hunt stole the front pages with a promise that under a new labour government infant class sizes would be capped at 30 pupils. I think for the electorate this may sound like a big deal. We have a sensation that smaller class sizes mean more attention for our own child which must surely be a good thing. But how much more attention. Let’s take a look at what that shift from 31-30 pupils actually means. With class time spent between whole class teaching and individual or group work, it is only the latter that is affected by a smaller group. Let’s assume that this accounts for about 60% of the working week and that a week in school is approximately 25 hours of teaching.
60% of 25 teaching hours = 15 hours
15 hours = 900 minutes
900 minutes shared between 30 pupils = 30 minutes per pupil
900 minutes shared between 31 pupils = 29 minutes per pupil
So, today’s headlines equate to some children winning nearly a minute of additional teacher time per week. Will that really change the face of British educational achievement?
It may surprise some people to know that lowering group size actually had less of an impact on pupil attainment than teacher subject knowledge! (Ability grouping and differentiation actually score even lower than reducing group size.)
Here are the 10 more effective ways of positively impacting a child’s education according to Hattie’s meta-study.
Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
1: Student expectation
2: Feedback on performance
4: Sharing learning outcomes
5: Reciprocal teaching
6: Concept mapping
7: Teaching learning strategies
8: Self verbalisation and self questioning
9: Direct instruction
10: Peer influence.
And so we have ten strategies proven to be more effective at improving pupil outcomes than reducing group size. I guess though that a politician needing hollow sound bites to win headlines wouldn’t have so much success by promising to improve feedback on pupil performance. Until we actually stop the headline grabbing and focus on what is proven to make a difference then politicians are going to struggle to improve the British education system.