What Are the pros and cons of a multi-age Classroom?
When multi-age education is done correctly it is a joy. To begin with, older children help younger ones. The competent older children can reinforce their understanding of the content material while the younger ones have it taught to them in different ways. Sometimes another child can word a concept in a way that an adult can’t, facilitating better understanding for both children involved.
Multi-age classrooms also allow children to excel. With higher level materials on hand, and an infrastructure already in place to differentiate the instruction, higher functioning students can work past the prescribed curriculum.
On the other hand multi-age classrooms allow a child in need of remediation to work specifically on the aspect of a concept that they are having problems mastering.This ability to “fill in” a child’s gaps in knowledge leads to better and often, but not always, an acceleration in that child’s learning curve.
In other words, a well functioning multi-age classroom will be able to adapt to the needs of each child, promoting enrichment and remediation in the specific concepts that each child needs to work on.
Some people worry that the different ages in one classroom will cause problems. Either older children will bully younger ones, older children will become immature from socializing with younger ones, or that having students working on different levels will promote taunting of lower functioning students. Although all of these are valid points, most of these problems can also occur in single aged classrooms as well. The problem is not with the intrinsic nature of a multi-age classroom itself, instead it is in the way the classroom, multi-age or not, is organized.
The teacher of any classroom can alleviate many of these problems by doing a lot of community building exercises at the beginning of the year, and then periodically throughout the year, that focus on the individual worth of each child’s natural strengths. This helps the children learn that the classroom environment is a place to focus on each person’s growth, not their weaknesses. Children, especially at the younger grades, are very accepting and forgiving when when such attributes are modeled for them.