Gwendolyn from Idaho asks this question: We are having trouble seeing the effects of our small group interventions with our below-benchmark kids. What is optimum group size? I think our groups might be too big.

My response: This is a really common question and one worth investigating though it is not typically at the root of the intervention problem. My experience tells me that small groups can range from two kids to fourteen kids (thought I start to wonder if fourteen is still considered “small”!) and have a pretty wide range of effectiveness. While I personally encourage our clients to keep their small group instruction between four and eight students, I think we can over-emphasize group sizes when the scores aren’t going up.

There are many factors in a successful small group lesson or series of lessons: classroom management, student engagement, behavioral expectations…and that’s even before the teaching begins! Then we look at teacher skill, teacher preparation, lesson pacing, instructional delivery, checking for understanding, perfect practice opportunities and whether we’ve matched the right materials for the right groups. You see, what is most important about small group interventions is that the quality of the instruction is extremely high (your most talented and skilled teachers should teach these) and that the content is designed specifically to close the skill gaps that exist. So, when you have a lack of growth or some growth but nowhere near what you need to see, you have to investigate all of these areas.