WELCOME TO THE MULTI-AGE LEARNING COMMUNITY (MAC)
The multi-age program integrates the following components:
- Reading Workshop
- Mathematics Workshop
- Fluid/Flexible groupings to target the needs of learners
- Writing Workshop
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Problem Solving Sessions
- Project Based Learning
- Orbital (independent) Studies
- Learning Enhances (centers)
- Active learning situations
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. How is a multi-age class different than a multi-grade or split class?
The differences between these two types of classes have to do with the pedagogical approach of the teacher. In a multi-age class, the students are taught and assessed according to developmental stages, rather than age or grade designation. Multi-age students remain with the same teacher for more than a year. Each year, they experience a new class position as they transition from a ‘novice’ to a ‘mentor’.
2. Will some of the younger children be intimidated by their older classmates?
One of the interesting observations is that the young children in multi-age classes do not fear their older classmates. When the children have the opportunity to get to know older children in the safe environment of their classroom, they develop more open, trusting interaction with them. The older children often take on a role of ‘protector’ and mentor.
3. Isn’t it better for students to have a different teacher each year?
The benefits of continuing with the same teacher a second year outweigh the advantages of changing teachers each year. The better a teacher knows a student, the easier it is for the teacher to provide appropriate instruction. Students can continue a second year using the same routines and expectations established with their same teacher. It is less stressful for the teacher, student and parent to work together when they have had the opportunity to get to know each other for longer than one year.
4. Will the children be doing work at other grade levels or just their own?
Multi-age teachers constantly monitor the instructional needs of the students. The intention
of the teacher is to engage students in activities so that they will experience success with
an appropriate level of challenge. Sometimes, this takes the form of open-ended activities,
which can be explored in different levels of depth, quality, and complexity. On the outside,
this may appear that all the students are “doing the same work”. Sometimes, the teacher
pulls together a small group of students of similar achievement level for explicit instruction
in a specific area regardless of their age. Sometimes the students are working
independently (orbital studies), or working in small groups on a problem (project based
learning), or making choices from a learning center menu that clearly indicates level of
5. What are some of the difficulties of implementing multi-age education?
The biggest challenge to multi-age implementation is the misunderstanding about ‘what it
is and is not’. Not all teachers and administrators have had an opportunity or reason to
learn about multi-age education and neither have most people in the parent community.
For many, when you talk about multi-age, they are picturing split class in their minds.
6. What are the benefits of multi-age education?
Benefits for students
Rigorous curriculum: Children gain necessary skills and knowledge through rigorous
21st century skills: Children gain necessary skills as collaborator, communicator, problem
solver, and independent high level thinker.
Positive, nurturing environment: Children develop a sense of family with their classmates.
They become a “family of learners” who support and care for each other. 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.
Peer support, mentoring: 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.
Opportunities for leadership: Older children have the opportunity to serve as mentors and to
take leadership roles.
Individual pace for learning: 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.
Small group skill instruction
Longer time with teacher: Children are able to spend longer periods of time 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.
Increased self-esteem, confidence
Life skills: Children are exposed to positive models for behavior and social skills.
Extra teaching time: 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.
Benefits for parents
Stronger relationship with teacher
More opportunities to take an active role in child’s education
Child is more positive about school
Child is given appropriate support/challenge depending on their individual achievement level
Child learns to be pro-social, independent and responsible
Child learns to self initiate
Benefits for educators
Stronger relationship with students and parents
Better able to address individual student needs
Longer time to monitor students to recognize effectiveness of teaching
More stimulating, creative work environment
More job satisfaction
– “pushes” teacher to use differentiated instruction and to perform at a high level of teaching
– fewer discipline problems in class
– allows staff more options for placement of high maintenance students and/or difficult combinations of students