What the logic doesn’t take into account is the key element in the learning of the students, being the dynamic that is nurtured by the teacher and created by the variety of ideas, thoughts and voices in the room. At some point, the lack of diversity of thought in a ‘small’ class, hinders the potential development of the rich learning dynamic, or environment, in the room.
Research tells us that the most influential school-based factor that elicits great learning is the teacher in the classroom. The seminal research of John Hattie (Visible Learning) showed quite clearly that, what he called, Climate of the Classroom is of far greater importance than the number of students in the room.
At the core of classroom climate is the relationship that the teacher builds with each student, which is a significant ‘moderator’. Marzano’s research in 2000, found that these relationships strongly influence: clarity of purpose; strong guidance; concern for the needs and opinions of others; and a desire to function as a member of a team.
In conclusion, the ideal class size can be as individual as the students and staff who comprise the class, itself. To reduce the discussion to a single factor, student number, is grossly oversimplifying what is a multi-faceted equation. However, at the heart of the ideal class size is the learning environment that the teacher creates by knowing, valuing and caring for each member of the class.
If we are going to single out any of the multitude of factors at play, then it is the rapport between the teacher and their students which is the most significant in learning, as it is in any form of inter-related human activity.