The workload of teachers and overtime gradually increases with the number of classes. The increasing number of students with special needs in the class has the same effect. In larger classes with more students with special needs, job satisfaction is also lower and faculty members are more often ill.
Text Michiel van Nieuwstadt – Editor Education magazine –
6 minutes to read
This series of negative effects emerged from research conducted by ResearchNed among more than 7,000 teachers in primary, secondary and special education (secondary and pre-university education). Overtime, work pressure, job satisfaction, and absenteeism are increasing systematically with different class size categories and an increasing number of students with special needs. The ResearchNed study, commissioned by the AOb, shows these effects across all three educational sectors studied: secondary, secondary, and secondary education.
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“These findings confirm what we’ve been saying out loud for years,” says Tamar van Gelder, chair of the AOb. “In every conversation I have with my teaching colleagues about the attractiveness of the profession, the topic of small classes is high on the list.”
Much research has been done internationally and nationally on the consequences of small classes, but these studies usually focus on learning outcomes. In well-known meta-analyses by New Zealand education researcher John Hattie, segregation reduction appears as a relatively ineffective investment in education. The presence of many students with special needs in the classroom does not have a direct negative impact on learning performance.
We all ended up in a downward spiral
“That’s why we wanted to know the impact of small classes on teachers’ performance and well-being,” says Van Gelder. ResearchNed’s study shows that there is a clear negative relationship between several factors that increase faculty stress and class size or number of students with special needs. It is plausible that these inappropriate elements of work can negatively affect the quality of education. “We all ended up in a downward spiral,” says Van Gelder. “With classes that are too large, we push teachers out of teaching. And classes keep getting bigger because there are not enough teachers. This research shows that smaller class sizes help retain teachers and bring them back to the profession. With classes that are too large, we push teachers toward burnout or illness.” .
ResearchNed shows that each additional pupil in a class and each additional special needs pupil increases the amount of extra work, workload and ultimately also absenteeism due to illness. In primary and secondary education, the average number of students in their classes is 25. This average class size is somewhat surprising, because many recent studies assume a class size of just under 23. According to teachers in elementary and secondary education, the ideal class size is 21 and 20. In special education, the average class size Class is 13 Here teachers see 11 as perfect.
In primary and secondary education, the ideal class size is 4 pupils above the required status, and in special education the difference is 2 pupils. A seemingly small difference with huge consequences. Van Gelder: “Every additional student represents an additional test, an additional grade to take, an additional meeting with the pair, sometimes an additional meeting with a care coordinator, and an additional support plan. Ultimately, it ensures that work that should be manageable is no longer so. As a teacher, you strive Behind the facts, while you want to be ahead.
Average class size doesn’t say it all either. Among primary education classes, 22 percent are older than 28 pupils. Extra-large classes are less common in secondary education: 13 percent of classes have 29 or more students.
Research confirms that teachers in primary and secondary education face enormous workloads: 70 to 80 percent of them regularly work overtime. Large classes and classes with many students with special needs add to the workload. For the 76 percent of elementary school teachers with a small class of no more than 21 students, the workload is too high or too high. In medium-sized classes (22 to 25 students), large classes (26 to 28 students), and very large classes (29 or more students), this proportion gradually rises to 85, 88, and 90 in the latter category. In secondary education and special education as well, the workload increases with the number of classes.
ResearchNed identified the number of students with special needs by asking teachers how many students in their class needed extra help for learning and behavioral problems. In primary education, there is an average of 8 per class. About a quarter of primary school teachers estimate that they have more than 10 students with special needs in their class. On average, teachers in secondary education estimate that just over a quarter of the pupils in their class fall into this category.
Just like class size, the number of students with special needs teachers have in their classes has a definite effect on the workload they face. In primary school classes with fewer than 6 students with special needs, the workload is high or very high for 76 percent of teachers. In the category of primary classes that includes more than 10 students with special needs, this percentage rises to 91 students. Secondary education shows the same pattern. Here, the percentage of teachers facing a high or very high workload rises from 80 percent in classes with the fewest students with special needs (less than 12 percent), to 91 percent in classes with students with special needs (more than 33 percent). percent).
Also in terms of overtime, large classrooms and classes with many students with special needs exacerbate existing problems. In elementary school classes with fewer than 22 students, 73 percent of teachers regularly work overtime. In medium classes, large classes, and extra-large classes over 28, these percentages range from 79 to 81. In secondary education, 64 percent of teachers work in a small class of no more than 22 students on a regular basis. This percentage increases to 69, 75, and 80 for the Medium, Large, and Extra Large classes.
Faculty members with large classes are also less satisfied with their work. In primary education, teachers with a small class of a maximum of 22 children rated their work at 7.0. For the Medium, Large, and Extra Large categories, these scores drop to 6.8, 6.7, and 6.6. In secondary education, teachers with a large or very large class are less satisfied with their work than teachers with a small class. As one of the few exceptions, the differences in satisfaction scores between middle and junior high school classes are, according to the researchers, too small to be counted statistically.
Across education sectors, 45 to 49 percent of faculty would prefer to work outside of education or not to work at their current school within five years. Teachers who have many students with special needs in their class are more likely to consider such a switch.
There is a clear link between large classes and absenteeism in two sectors of education. Teachers in the smallest primary classes miss an average of 3.7 working days due to illness. In larger classes, this absenteeism increases step by step to 4.8 days in very large classes. For teachers in secondary education, absenteeism also increases with class size: from 5.3 days for teachers with small classes to 6.4 days for teachers with very large classes. No such relationship exists in special education, possibly because of the much smaller average class size of 13. The relationship between the number of days absent and the number of students with special needs can be statistically demonstrated in primary and secondary education.
I often hear that people feel like they have let themselves down
This connection also came as no surprise to Van Gelder: “When I talk to colleagues who have had to deal with complaints of burnout, I often hear that people feel like they are letting themselves down. They can’t give the children the personal attention they want for them and they can’t deliver the quality of work they want to provide.” This infects people’s skin and ultimately leads to disease and failure.”
For all the results of the research conducted by AOb and ResearchNed, see the report Download the report
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