Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Class Size Debate

Fellow Harvard Ed School grads have been debating whether smaller class sizes really are better for students. Some of their comments may surprise and enlighten you:

"Ted Sizer used to answer the question succinctly: 'If you don't change the way you teach, then it doesn't matter how large your class is.' I've had the privilege and heartbreak of observing teachers in classes all over the country in every kind of neighborhood for over twenty five years now, and I've seen teachers run classes of sixty where kids were busy at work in teams on projects requiring really high levels of team work and cognitive activity, and I've seen classes of four or five where kids were reading individually out of ancient textbooks and being asked inane questions about the content of each paragraph, sentence by sentence, by a teacher who was totally disengaged. I just can't find a correlation with class size and learning in my experience. But I will say this: When a teacher has a smaller class (say, around 15 or so), and is a part of a small school and meets regularly with the other teachers (who share that student, and who share content) with a clear sense of purpose and mission, and understands her content and understands her learners and has good command of good pedagogy, then it's great that she can get to know those individual students and differentiate."


"I remember reading or hearing that comment by Ted Sizer ('If you don't change the way you teach, then it doesn't matter how large your class is.') and thinking at the time that although the man was a genius and a visionary, that particular statement did not match my experience. Do we have to change the way we teach and revisit our changes for every class and student?... of course. But to say that class size doesn't matter is a totally different thought.

Although I have not had the extensive experience of observing teachers in classes all over the country as John has had (what a wonderful thing to do), I have been an educator for 40 years in a variety of settings from pre-kindergarten to university, from urban to rural, national to international, public to private and currently run an adult education program and regularly train teachers and teach a grad course on creative teaching strategies. There is no question in my mind that size matters - for the same reasons John listed, and more. There are many factors involved in great teaching and learning practices. But my bet is that if observing the same teacher in the same school with the same age level students, you'd see a striking difference of learning impact on a smaller class (12 to 15 ideally, and under 20 still good), and a larger class (30 to 45 or more). Just the comfort level of the students with each other (extremely important dynamic), and the level of exhaustion and ease of the teacher (those huge classes can be extremely demanding no matter how constructivist, student centered, inquiry based or project based the approach)."

Fascinating indeed! What do you think??

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