chapter  10
Classroom interaction in reduced-size classes: A Hong Kong perspective
Pages 15

When there are fewer students in the class, each one has more opportunity to be heard. Discussions can be held without the age-old practice of raising hands. Students learn to allow classmates to finish speaking, and they respond in a relevant way. The exchange of thoughts, philosophies, and opinions becomes a foundation for a classroom based on mutual respect, and regard. Self-esteem rises, social interactions are more positive, and skills of compromise and consensus develop. (Handley, 2002, p. 34)

In a small class every student is in the firing line. It is difficult or impossible to withdraw from teaching-learning interactions in a small-class setting when class sizes are reduced, the pressure is increased for each student to participate in learning, and every student becomes more salient to the teacher. As a result, there is more instructional contact, and student learning behaviours are improved. (Finn and Achilles, 1999, p. 103)

In line with the above comments from practitioners and researchers, it seems somewhat intuitive that a reduced number of students in a class will afford more interactional opportunities. Previous class size research in the west and in East Asia supports this view (Finn and Achilles, 1999; Finn, Pannozzo, and Achilles, 2003; Blatchford, 2003; Galton and Pell, 2009). This chapter aims to provide a brief summary of that research as well as an explanation of how and why class size reduction (CSR) facilitates increased classroom interaction, taking into account some of the perceived cultural barriers to classroom interaction particularly in Confucianheritage cultures (CHCs) like Hong Kong. It draws on research conducted in Hong Kong secondary schools to illustrate qualitative differences in classroom interaction between pairs of large and small English language classes taught by the same teacher. The chapter concludes by drawing out implications for practice and further research in this crucial area of understanding how CSR impacts upon teaching and learning.