Do Crowded Classrooms Affect Learning?

Do Crowded Classrooms Affect Learning?

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Many parents of public school children wonder whether overcrowded classrooms will affect their child’s ability to learn, particularly in elementary school grades. While not much study has been done on the effects of overcrowded classrooms on a child’s learning and retention abilities, there is some evidence to suggest that they may hinder children’s success on some levels.

The effect on a child’s learning ability in overcrowded classrooms may be the direct result of the impact overcrowding has on the teacher. Here’s why:

  • Teachers in overcrowded classrooms may be spread too thin and unable to give each student the one-on-one attention he or she needs.
  • If children are not given the attention they need in the classroom, they may fall behind. This can affect not only standardized testing scores, but also the child’s own enjoyment of school and learning, setting them up for failure in the future.
  • Teachers in overcrowded classrooms may be more stressed out and overwhelmed, feeling as though they lack the time and resources to really make a difference. This can lead to teacher burnout.
  • Teachers may find themselves spending more time managing the classroom organization and student behavior than actually teaching.
  • The noise level increases the more students are packed into a classroom, which can affect some students’ ability to learn or work.
  • There is often not enough technology and resources to go around in an overcrowded classroom.
  • It may be more difficult for the teacher to connect with each student on a deeper level.

Fortunately most public school teachers we know (being the selfless civil servants they are), plan exceptionally well and work incredibly hard to combat the effects of overcrowding. Teachers who love what they do and genuinely care for their students will go above and beyond to connect with each student and ensure they are receiving the best education possible. Unfortunately, if a teacher lacks support and resources from the administration/district and even parents, there is only so much the teacher can do.

According to the U.S. Department of Education:

…there is some evidence…that overcrowding can have an adverse impact on learning.

A study of overcrowded schools in New York City found that students in such schools scored significantly lower on both mathematics and reading exams than did similar students…In addition, when asked, students and teachers in overcrowded schools agreed that overcrowding negatively affected both classroom activities and instructional techniques. (Rivera-Batiz and Marti, 1995)

Corcoran et al. (1988) found that overcrowding and heavy teacher workloads created stressful working conditions for teachers and led to higher teacher absenteeism.

Crowded classroom conditions not only make it difficult for students to concentrate on their lessons, but inevitably limit the amount of time teachers can spend on innovative teaching methods such as cooperative learning and group work or, indeed on teaching anything beyond the barest minimum of required material. In addition, because teachers must constantly struggle simply to maintain order in an overcrowded classroom, the likelihood increases that they will suffer from burnout earlier than might otherwise be the case.” (Source: U.S. Dept. of Education)

As time goes on, we hope more research will be conducted to determine the effects of overcrowded classrooms on learning and retention. Until then, we are pleased to provide small class sizes that foster a positive learning environment for each student and offer plenty of time for teacher-student interaction and concentrated attention.

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