Q: A parent of a potential student called and was concerned about the student-to-teacher ratio in our classes. What ratio works for you and keeps your parents happy? Does it vary by age?
A: When setting class size limits and student-to-teacher ratios, consider the needs of the studio owner, the instructor, the students and their parents. Class sizes may vary depending on the studio space available, the age of the dancers and the genre being taught. We find the best ratio for preschool children ages 2–3 is a maximum of six to eight students per class; for children ages 4–6, it’s a maximum of 10–12 students. For grade school children, our maximum is 12–15; for teen and adult classes, it’s 20.
Many parents believe that if a class is too large, their child will not get personalized instruction and that the chance for injury will increase. While a low student-to-teacher ratio is often desirable for parents, it can be frustrating for a teacher who prefers a larger class size for the increased energy and dynamic change. For those teachers who are paid on a commission for enrolled students, their goal is to fill their classes. We encourage studio owners to be sure that their teachers have the background and experience to handle a larger class. It takes only one or two students with behavior issues to cause chaos. We have found that it sets parents at ease when we assign an assistant (who has gone through our assistant teacher training program) to a large class to help the faculty member focus attention where needed.
Be sure that your class size maximums are stated clearly on your website and that you reserve the right to cancel any class with insufficient registration. We often cancel, combine or split classes to get to the right student-teacher ratio that provides an optimum learning environment.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety