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Class size and language learning in Hong Kong: The students' perspective

  • Class size and language learning in Hong Kong: The students' perspective
  • Educational Research, 54(3), 331-342, 2012
  • Routledge
  • 2012
    • Hong Kong
    • 1997.7 onwards
    • Secondary Education
  • Background: There is currently ongoing debate in Hong Kong between the teachers' union and the Government on the reduction of large class size (typically more than 40 students) in secondary schools and whether smaller class sizes might facilitate improvements in teaching and learning. In fact, many Hong Kong secondary schools have already started to experiment with class size reduction. This study seeks to investigate from the students' perspective how class size reduction might alleviate one key psychological aspect of learning in Hong Kong and Asia, namely language learning anxiety. Research has shown that language learning anxiety can have a debilitating effect on students' classroom behaviour, and this study seeks to examine whether exposure to learning in a smaller class informs such findings.
    Purpose: This small-scale exploratory study aims to examine whether, and how, class size reduction might help to alleviate language learning anxiety, which has long been seen as an obstacle to second language acquisition.
    Method: This study employed multiple case studies in four Hong Kong secondary schools. Each case constituted one teacher teaching English language to first language Chinese students in a reduced-size class (where class size was between 21 and 25 students) and a large class (where class size was between 38 and 41 students) of the same year grade, and of similar academic ability. Multiple interviews were conducted with the four teachers, and data stemmed from group and individual interviews with 231 students. Student interview questions focused on their perspectives and experiences of studying in large and reduced-size classes. A total of 78 lessons were also observed across the four case studies. The data were analysed to identify any emergent patterns and themes.
    Findings: The research findings indicate that students reflect on their experiences of studying in reduced-size classes in a mature and confident way. Students reported that smaller classes promoted a strong sense of security within their classroom community and seemed to weaken students' fears of negative evaluation from their peers and teachers. Students also reported that they felt more confident about participating in English lessons and these perspectives were supported by evidence from classroom observations.
    Conclusions: This small-scale exploratory research study suggests that the student voice can provide insights into language learning classrooms. Data from the case studies reveal that students' sense of anxiety can be reduced in smaller classes and that class size reduction may assist in breaking down cultural barriers.
    [Copyright of Educational Research is the property of Routledge. Full article may be available at the publisher's website:]
    • English
  • Journal Articles
    • 00131881
  • 2014-01-18

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