Smaller classes: The imperative of treating each and every student as a genuine person

Laurance Joseph SPLITTER

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Arguments for and against SCT are distorted by several factors, including: regional variation in what counts as “small”; research findings which make unquestioned assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning (e.g. international test scores); and confusion over the distinction between necessary and sufficient factors for success (small classes may be necessary but are certainly not sufficient). When we move beyond these issues, the case in favour of reducing class sizes in Asia to 25 or fewer (at all levels) is, I maintain, overwhelming. To see this, we need to go beyond standard measures of achievement and success to consider the more fundamental question “To what kinds of teaching and learning environments are students entitled?”. Treating students as (emergent) persons who are increasingly capable of, confident about, and engaged in, thinking for themselves, places clear limits on class size. Too small, and the crucial interpersonal dynamics which constitute personhood are unrealistic or forced; too large, and they not only reinforce the familiar patterns of didactic teaching and passive learning, but lead to such toxic affective phenomena as individual students seeing themselves as mere objects, and allowing the unregulated classifications devised by students themselves (“nerds”, “brains”, etc.), to dominate. Heeding the distinction between necessary and sufficient factors, I proceed to describe what (smaller!) classrooms should actually be like if they are to avoid these dangers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011


human being
regional difference
learning environment


Splitter, L. (2011, May). Smaller classes: The imperative of treating each and every student as a genuine person. Paper presented at the Greater China Region Conference on Small Class Teaching, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.