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A systematic observational study of teachers’ and pupils’ behaviour in large and small classes

Learning and Instruction Volume 13, Number 6 ISSN 0959-4752 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


Research and debate on class size differences have focused on relations with achievement and there is little relevant research on what mediating classroom processes might be involved. This paper investigates connections between class size and three aspects of teacher and child behaviour in class: teacher–child interactions, pupil attentiveness and off-task behaviour, and peer relations in class. It reports on a systematic observational study of large (average 33 children) and small (average 19 children) reception classes (children aged 4–5 years). Data come from a sub-sample of 235 children in 39 classes drawn from a longitudinal study of two cohorts of over 10,000 children for three years after entry to English infant schools (aged 4–7 years). Results show that teacher–child contacts are more frequent and personalized in small classes, but that children are more likely to be off-task in large classes (whether with the teacher, other children or when not interacting), and interact more extensively with their peers (through work as well as social contacts). The results raise questions about direct models of teacher effects, and suggest that class size is one contextual influence that presents difficulties and opportunities for teachers and children.


Blatchford, P. A systematic observational study of teachers’ and pupils’ behaviour in large and small classes. Learning and Instruction, 13(6), 569-595. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved December 13, 2019 from .

This record was imported from Learning and Instruction on January 29, 2019. Learning and Instruction is a publication of Elsevier.

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