What single change would help you be a more effective teacher this year?

TeAch-nology.com's Teacher Poll of the Week
What single change would help you be a more effective teacher this year?
smaller classes
more professional learning opportunities
greater support from the building administrators
fewer class periods to teach
more classroom resources made available to me

View Results

With so many factors that could possibly affect teacher performance, and with five options for teachers to chose on this poll, the majority feel that smaller class sizes is the single change that would help make them a more effective teacher. More classroom resources came a distant second place while the other three categories garnered less than a third of the vote.

Class size has been debated for a long time and numerous studies have been conducted to see whether the number of students in a classroom affects student learning. The evidence all points to the fact that it does. More students in a classroom mean more noise and distraction for all students. Teachers also have less opportunity to spend individualized time with students assessing and addressing problems.

A decade old study out of Tennessee, called the Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR), concluded that smaller class sizes were especially important in the first three years of schooling. Kindergarten to Grade Two were identified as formative years and by setting students up with a solid foundation of learning and core skill development future success is more readily achieved. The addition of more teaching staff or educational assistants to existing large class sizes did not produce the same increase in achievement levels. The conclusion was that more bodies in a classroom created for opportunity for distraction and off-task behaviour, thereby leading to a decrease in achievement.

The other conclusion made from the STAR study was that teachers were able to plan more interactive lessons and promote higher levels of student learning when there were fewer students in the classroom. This conclusion ties directly to the response from this poll. Teachers are correct when they believe that smaller classes would make them more effective.

While family background and socio-economic factors also play a role in student achievement, it is important to try to mitigate any of these negative factors. The way to do this is to allow teachers to be as effective as possible, especially in schools where the students face other challenges to learning.

In a perfect world, we would be placing an optimum number of students in each class to ensure the highest degree of learning possible. Teachers would have adequate resources to plan and implement lessons and there would be more opportunity to spend time with individual students. Unfortunate, as we all know, the world is not perfect.