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Classroom contexts: Connections between class size and within class grouping

Baines, E; Kutnick, P; Martin, C; (2001) Classroom contexts: Connections between class size and within class grouping. British Journal of Educational Psychology , 71 (2) pp. 283-302. 10.1348/000709901158523. Green open access

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Abstract

Background. There has been a vigorous debate for many years about the educational effects of class size differences, but even if differences have an impact on pupils' academic progress this still leaves unanswered important questions about what mediates the effect. Aims. This paper is informed by a classroom contextual perspective, and examines associations between class size and within class groupings (in terms of size and number of groups, adult presence in groups, and type of interaction between grouping members). Age differences in these relationships are also explored. Samples. The quantitative study is based on analysis of 3157 groupings, from 672 Reception, Year 2 and Year 5 classes in 331 schools. The qualitative study was based on 12 classes in 8 case study schools, and questionnaire responses completed by over 100 class teachers. Methods. Links between size of class and within class groupings were examined on the basis of a 'grouping mapping survey', in which teachers at a given time in the school day provided information on group size and number, adult presence, and type of interaction between pupils, and complementary qualitative analyses of data from teacher-completed questionnaires, and interviews. Results. The number of groups in a class increased with the size of the class. Over all three year groups, small classes had on average just over three groups, while large classes approached six groups. The size of groups in the class decreased with size of class. In class sizes over 25, pupils were more likely to be in a large group of 7-10, while in classes under 25 they were more likely to be in whole class groupings. Qualitative analyses showed that teachers felt that groups of 7-10 pupils had negative educational effects, for example, in terms of the quality and quantity of teaching and children's concentration and contribution in groups. Conclusions. Results suggest that the effects of class size can be best seen as through the size and number of groups, which will then have implications for learning experiences. So while debate about size of class has often been in terms of reduced size of class resulting in pupil academic gains, it is also important educationally to consider within class grouping size and number, and their effects.

Type: Article
Title: Classroom contexts: Connections between class size and within class grouping
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1348/000709901158523
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1495406
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