Critique of Joshua M. Englehart (2011). Why class size effects cannot stand alone: Insights from a qualitative exploration. Learning Environ Res 14:109–121
This is a critique of a qualitative study on why class effects cannot stand alone in influencing performance, comfort and participation amongst students in both large and small classes. This critique uses several criteria to analyze the qualitative study and its social and conceptual justification. Example of the criteria used include methods used to reduce bias, the use of the qualitative approach, interpretation of results, sample size, study results and any strengths or limitations to the research. From the students interviewed, the researcher came to the conclusion that there are several confounding factors that influence performance, comfort and participation in class whether the class is large or small. Participants in the study revealed how other factors other than class size affected their performance.
The researcher states that they used qualitative case study method. The student participants were selected based on being a student in either a large or a small class. The data was collected mainly through self report and observation. Researchers need to use the process of bracketing to recognize and put aside beliefs before conducting research. In this research study, the researcher recognized biases that could occur and influence the outcome. Potential biases include personal ability to relate socially with others and being from a different race such as Caucasians who are a minority.
The students who participated are described in terms of gender and race. The teachers are also described in terms of the number of years they have taught. The author of the study gives examples of actions of Ms. Shepherds that illustrate her personal nature of being responsive. For example, she is sensitive to the students’ personal life and giving advice to them.
Analysis of results
This study found that there are several confounding factors that can influence the performance and comfort of students regardless of class size. This study helps educators to understand that there are other measures that can be used to improve performance of students such as the personality of the teachers and interaction with other students. The researcher clearly described how the participants were chosen. The aim of the study was for students who were studying either in small or large classes to explore their views on how they were affected by their experiences in either of the classes. Information from interviews and observation was coded and examined for themes. They are also considerably described in detail.
Presentation of results and limitations of study
Whereas the study presented clear findings regarding the reasons why there are other confounding factors that influence student’s performance and class participation, there were several limitations to the research findings. The students selected for the sample had different experiences because they were taught by different teachers and were taught different subjects making the results questionable. Another possible limitation of the research is that students in larger classes may have focused on the negative side of a large class due to their current situation (Englehart, 2011). The students included in the research were diverse in terms of their races and the duration for which they have stayed in either large or small classes. All students included in the study were from the same area, thus creating the limitation in the ability of generalization of the research findings to other regions. Conclusions need caution in interpretation because variables such as students’ experience and their ability to relate with others in the school.
Englehart, J.M. (2011). Why class size effects cannot stand alone: Insights from a qualitative exploration. Learning Environ Res 14: 109–121.