An experience of community, not of class

I’ve been thinking about class size, partly because it’s something that generates debate and partly because my experience was not of class but of community. It’s a bit like the notion of the territorial ownership of space, in that our assumptions about what works, what we think we have a right to, and what we expect – shapes the trajectories of our imaginings into the future.

We have become accustomed to the notion that equality means the same amount of attention, space and instruction – concurrently for all. And optimising the ratio of 1:22 or 1:30 diverts attention from the many and varied ways learning communities could be structured. Stephen Harris, principal at NBCS, points to this ratio, this one versus the rest and invites us to consider the notion of 6:180 – mathematically reducible to 1:30 but so much more flexible, sustainable and indeed satisfying.

Shifting attention from class size to team size, in a flexible and adaptive learning environment, has the effect of increasing opportunities for differentiation, connection and collaboration for both students and staff. Watching something as simple as the weekly spelling test orchestrated using the ratios of 2:90 or 2:15 or 3:120, left me wondering at the time and resources allocated, across the world, to this time-honoured task in isolated cells of 1:30. It brought clarity to the notion of bringing down the walls in favour of community – in place of isolation.

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