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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Benefits of mixed age classroom

Many parents are not aware of term 'mix age classroom' or 'composite class' and they are curious to know it. But this concept is not new, as this method is being applied and adopted in many schools around the world, successfully.
'Earth House Alternative School' adopted this method as being a small school. Whenever teachers arranged a learning session or group work in multi age classroom, it was observed that there was a very friendly and warm learning atmosphere among children. Older children in particularly become "experts" and explaining things to the younger ones. So this kind of social interaction helps all students learn many more things as compared to a regular classroom. In mixed-age classes, older children have opportunities to practice leadership skills and pro-social behaviors, like helping and sharing. Development of social or emotional skills is possible at ease, in a mixed age classroom.

Multi-age classrooms or composite classes are classrooms with students from more than one grade level.

Multi age classrooms  is intended to optimize the educative potential of the mixture itself. They are created when either there are too many students for one class - but not enough to form two classes of the same grade level, or as an educational choice by the school.
Composite classes are more common in smaller schools. There are two main reasons for the approach, economic necessity or a belief that such teaching is better for pupils.
An example of a mixed age classroom where the students attended the first oral class together, then they moved back to their own spaces to do work individually or supervised by a teacher
The research supporting mixed-age classrooms indicates that academic achievement is the same as, or better than, the academic achievement of children in same-grade classrooms.

Mixed-age classrooms do not negatively affect student achievement, and students in these classrooms have significantly more positive attitudes toward school, themselves, and others.

The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) lists the following benefits of multiage classrooms:

Benefits of multi-age classroom:
  • Children are able to spend several years with the same teacher. This allows the teacher to develop a deeper understanding of a child’s strengths and needs, and is therefore in a better position to support the child’s learning.
    Design and Technology is a mixed age class at 'Earth House Alternative School'
  • Children have several years to develop, and are able to see themselves as progressive, successful learners. Children are viewed as unique individuals. The teacher focuses on teaching each child according to his or her own strengths, unlike in same-grade classrooms that often expect all children to be at the same place at the same time with regard to ability. Children are not labeled according to their ability. For example, children in same-grade classrooms may be labeled "below grade level" or "low." These children may stop trying, while those labeled as "above grade level" or "high" may not feel challenged.
  • Children learn at their own rate, with no fear of retention. In same-grade classrooms, children are retained if they do not master content by the end of the year. In mixed-age classrooms, children have more time to master content, and this removes their fear of being retained in school.
  • Children develop a sense of family with their classmates. They become a "family of learners" who support and care for each other. Older children have the opportunity to serve as mentors and to take leadership roles. It is observed that pupils develop cognitively and socially through mixing with older and younger children. 
  • Children are more likely to cooperate than compete. The spirit of cooperation and caring makes it possible for children to help each other as individuals, not see each other as competitors.
  • Older children model more sophisticated approaches to problem solving, and younger children are able to accomplish tasks they could not do without the assistance of older children. This dynamic increases the older child’s level of independence and competence.
  • Children are invited to take charge of their learning, by making choices at centers and with project work. This sense of "ownership" and self-direction is the foundation for lifelong learning. Children have almost an extra month of teaching time, because the teacher does not have to spend the early weeks in the school year getting to know each child. Less review of prior instruction is needed before proceeding with new content.
Useful links:

* Composite classes in primary school
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