What is a Multiage Classroom?
Multiage classrooms are composed of students who are more than one year apart. Students remain with the same teacher for more than one year. Multiage classrooms are made up of a mix of abilities and ages. Students are not grouped based solely on academic performance. Multiage classrooms reflect the natural groupings found in our neighborhoods, communities and in the world, and provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas, modeling of behaviors, practice of responsibility and nurturance, and development of leadership and social skills.
- Several principles and practices are foundational to multiage classrooms:
- Teacher is the facilitator of learning (rather than the keeper of knowledge)
- Developmentally appropriate, child centered, continuous learning
- Integrated Curriculum
- Attention to the education of the whole child
Will my child benefit from a multiage experience?
Research strongly suggests that children benefit in many ways from multiage classrooms (Miller 1990). Academically, children usually do better in multiage classrooms that in traditional classrooms (Anderson & Pavan, 1993). If they don’t do better, then they do the same. Multiage classrooms clearly do not negatively affect academic achievement (Miller, 1990). After reviewing twenty-one quantitative studies comparing the effects of multiage classrooms with single grade classrooms, Miller (1990, 6) notes, “In terms of academic achievement, the data clearly support the multigrade classroom as a viable and equally effective organizational alternative to single-grade instruction.”
In addition, the benefits for children, socially and emotionally, are consistently higher for multiage classrooms. The affective domain is greatly impacted by multiage classrooms. From his review of the research, Miller (1990, 7) notes, “When it comes to student affect, the case for multigrade organization appears much stronger, with multigrade students out-performing single-grade students in over 75 percent of the measures used.”
Multiage children often have a greater sense of belonging (Sherman, 1984) and more positive social relationships. Anderson and Pavan’s (1993) review of research from 1977-1990 found that multiage children consistently like school more. Multiage children have more positive attitudes towards school than same-age children. The attendance rate in multiage classrooms is also significantly better than in same-age classrooms.
Is the multiage classroom better for some children, but not for others?
This question assumes that traditional classrooms are the best way to educate children. As you investigate the philosophy of multiage classrooms, you quickly conclude that this child-centered approach is good for all children. Shouldn’t all children be able to progress at their own pace? Shouldn’t all children view themselves as successful, competent learners? Shouldn’t all children be able to learn from peers without competing? Shouldn’t all children have the opportunity to be mentored and to mentor?
How are children selected for multiage classrooms?
Children are randomly selected and the selection is heterogeneous. The school hopes to form a balance of ages, gender and abilities. Since we are a charter school, this balance will depend on the heterogeneous nature of students who apply for our school.
Do older children benefit from a multiage classroom?
In multiage classrooms, all children, even the older children, are on their own continuum of learning. The curriculum is opened up for ALL the children. The older child is able to go as far as he or she is able to go just as the younger child is. Oftentimes in a same-grade classroom, some children who have accomplished the curriculum, stagnate or get bored with learning things they already know. This does not happen in the multiage program. The older child is able to progress beyond the traditional curriculum limits.
Older children also benefit socially and emotionally. Older children have the opportunity to mentor younger children. This allows all the older children to gain confidence and increase their self-esteem. Without the strong competitions of same-age classrooms, older children are free to cooperate and help others.
Do gifted children benefit from multiage classrooms?
Yes, gifted children benefit from multiage classrooms in much the same way that older children benefit. Gifted children are also on their own continuum of learning. They are not held back by a prescribed grade-level curriculum. The open-ended curriculum in a multiage classroom encourages children to explore, discover, and invent. Gifted children, as do all children, have the freedom to pursue their interests and the opportunity to creatively expand their knowledge.
How are art, PE, music and special-education accommodated in the multiage classroom?
Multiage classes are considered one class. When students attend art, PE and music, they go as one class, and they are not separated out by grade level. Special education teachers and classroom teachers collaborate for the benefit of the children. Sometimes special-education services can be provided within the multiage classroom, and sometimes it is provided via pull-out sessions.
What happens if my child goes from a multiage classroom to a traditional graded classroom as a transfer?
Sometimes families move and the student must be relocated to another school that does not provide multiage classrooms. Experience has shown that children who are in multiage classrooms are more confident learners and quickly adapt to same-age classrooms. One positive aspect is that they have had time to enjoy seeing themselves as competent learners. To have had some time in a multiage classroom is better than none at all.