Traditionally, when we think of school and classes, the image of forty students seated in a classroom in neat rows or hundreds of students cramped into a large seminar room comes to mind. A teacher or lecturer then proceeds to conduct a class to the best of their ability, trying to ensure that the entire room grasps the topic. Occasionally, individual students would get distracted or would simply lose interest in the class. While this norm has long been accepted by the majority, recent alternate pedagogies have emerged. One in demand teaching method involves the reduction of class sizes and the usage of peer-to-peer learning. The hypothesis of this pedagogy states that as the group size shrinks, both the range of approaches that a teacher can use and the amount of received attention by individual students increases. In this article, we explore the benefits of this approach and its applicability to teaching mathematics.
Recent studies by educational institutes have found that reducing class sizes result in an additional three months’ worth of progress for students on average. Intuitively, we can tell that the reduction in the number of students in a class would lead to improved quality of learning due to the increased amount of engagement, participation and feedback that an individual student receives. With more time to be dedicated to each student, teachers or tutors are able to answer their questions or clarify their doubts. As such, each student should in theory be more competent in each topic.
The benefits of a small class size extends beyond just mere improvement in academic grades. With increased flexibility, teachers have more resources to entertain questions outside the scope of exam topics. This improves engagement in class while also leading to a greater appreciation and interest in the subject. Over time, it is this interest that sustains motivation and helps them in understanding how to translate academic theory to real life application.
Another often overlooked benefit is that of peer to peer learning. When in small groups, teachers can play the role of facilitator, allowing students to explore concepts and teach each other. In doing so, students feel less pressured to get the exact answer or to strictly remain within the teachings of the textbook syllabus. Instead, they are able to explore related concepts which pushes their thinking. Additionally, for students who teach their peers often report having understood the concept better. This occurs as it forces them to cover any gaps in their knowledge while questions from their peers test their ability to vocalise their knowledge in a simple and succinct form.
Small group maths tuition classes are growing in popularity due to the reasons listed above. If your child is struggling in mathematics or has difficulty sustaining attention for long periods of time, this solution could serve as a viable alternative for their learning needs.