Last month I wrote about a study linking good teaching with future economic advantages. Today, the New York Times featured that study in a new article titled “Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain.”

In another interesting study in the area of good teaching and small class sizes, researchers have identified how being a part of a larger group can have a negative impact on your performance — what they call the “N-Effect.”

Stephen Garcia of the University of Michigan and Avishalom Tor of the University of Haifa argue that when we are placed within a larger pool of competitors our motivation decreases. Importantly, they say that just knowing that you are competing against a larger number of people will decrease your motivation, even if your chances of success are constant.


Garcia and Tor say that “social comparison concerns” are reduced when the group is larger. In plain language, we might say that in a big group students are more likely to blend into the woodwork, even if in other circumstances they might be quite motivated people.

What does this mean for schools?

Garcia and Tor are quite direct how this might impact school policy, writing: “The N-Effect, however, indicates that as the number of students in the classroom increases, the motivation to compete and academic efforts are likely to decrease.” Smaller class sizes, they would suggest, lead most students to try harder.