Pass or Fail: Multi-Age Classrooms — The Verdict
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
As outlined in all of the strategies for ending grade retention and social promotion considered so far, there is a need for substantial and systemic change, not just an end to the specific policies regulating retention and social promotion. Indeed, the strategies discussed in this series are not exclusively or even primarily concentrated on the ending of grade retention and social promotion; these problems are merely symptoms of a greater disease. The true focus should be upon putting an end to the graded education model and the related problems of standardized assessments and graded curriculum; problems that hamper student learning, often leaving the most vulnerable and the most talented of our students without a place in the educational system.
It is clear that multi-age classrooms can be an opportunity for developmentally appropriate, innovative, creative, and engaging educational opportunities. The multi-age classroom also has tremendous potential as an educational approach if supported by skilled, qualified, and dedicated professionals in various capacities.
It bears repeating, though, that an added layer of engagement, challenge, and innovative thinking is needed before a multi-age classroom can be implemented that is both effective at achieving specified educational goals for all students and maximizing learning for individuals.
Many aspects of development relate to socialization, behavior, communication, and physical development. Students in schools need the opportunity to work on these other areas of development as much as they need the opportunity to develop intellectually and academically. Students need to be able to interact appropriately with their peers and with adults. Behavioral considerations come into play both with emotional and social developments.
Given that there is evidence of the benefits of multi-age classrooms with specific reference to these areas, it seems one of the added benefits of the educational model must be that graduating students are not only better prepared academically; they are also better equipped with opportunities to mature socially and emotionally. Behavioral problems may be more effectively addressed in the multi-age classroom setting, affording students better opportunities for engagement that come with exposure to more mature students.
What will it take for multi-age classrooms to become a reasonable norm, though? It starts with parent and teacher support of the idea and also calls for research on best practices. From there, multi-age classrooms with strong potential can be formed as a positive way to avoid retention or social promotion – and all the baggage those practices carry.