Investigating the effect of an increased teacher-pupil ratio

How significant is the teacher-pupil ratio when it comes to the learning outcome and learning environment of elementary school children? The question has caused great debate, however international studies are divided on the matter. Two Teachers is one of two large research projects investigating the effect of an increased teacher-pupil ratio for Norwegian pupils.

Girl and teacher at desk (Photo: Elisabeth T√łnnessen)

The Norwegian government has allocated NOK 400 million to more teachers in grades 1 to 4. In addition, NOK 50 million is granted to two large research projects investigating the effect of an increased teacher-pupil ratio in elemenatry school classrooms: Two Teachers is lead by associate professor Oddny Judith Solheim at the Norwegian Reading Centre, and studies the effect of an increased teacher-pupil ratio in literacy instruction. The Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) will investigate the effect of smaller class sizes in mathematics instruction.

"We need more research on how to best utilize an increased teacher-student ratio in elementary school", Norway's minister of education Torbjørn Røe Isaksen admitted in a press release.

Two Teachers has been granted a total of NOK 160 million, making this one of the largest research projects on education in Norwegian history. NOK 28 million is allocated directly to the project, whereas NOK 132 million is allocated to additional teachers at 150 participating schools in Agder, Rogaland and Hordaland. The study will focus on pupils starting in grade 1 in August 2016, and will follow the participating schools and classes over a period of 4 years. The Reading Centre is leading the study, in cooperation with the Centre for Learning Environment and the University of Stavanger Business School.

– Lowering the pupil-teacher ratio provides increased opportunities for teachers. The determining factor for children’s learning outcomes seems to be the extent to which teachers exploit these opportunities. The project looks at whether increased knowledge amongst teachers about literacy instruction, and the implementation of carefully developed instructional approaches and programmes, can boost the effect of a lower pupil-teacher ratio, and thus improve learning, says associate professor and project manager Oddny Judith Solheim.