Most of us today are accustomed to a classroom of students who are all in the same grade. This is called a single-grade classroom. When a teacher teaches a classroom of students of different ages and grade levels, this is called a multi-grade classroom.
When some hear that we are offering multi-grade classrooms, this may catch them off guard. But it ought to win their keen attention because a multi-grade classroom can offer benefits not easily replicated in a single-grade classroom. To explain these benefits is the purpose of this newsletter.
Background and History of Multi-grade
Which nation boasts the highest literacy rate in the world? It’s New Zealand, a nation where multi-grade classrooms are common today, just as they once were in America.
“Rural America has its own history of multi-age one- or–two-room schoolhouse. The one-room schoolhouse offered certain attributes that were very sound educationally. First of all, children remained with the same teacher and primarily the same class of students for multiple years. School was a stable and a reliable environment for the children. Second, the mix of ages and abilities provided optimum opportunities for
student collaboration as older students served as role models. There was no apparent ceiling on the content taught, discussed, or overheard with the room, which benefited older students by design and younger students more incidentally.”
If multi-grade classrooms are so beneficial, why the shift to single-grade classrooms? The answer may shock you: mass production. The concept of single-graded classrooms actually began in 1848 in industrialized Massachusetts as a way to “educate more children for less money.” In other words, the students’ welfare was not the foremost reason when an “assembly line concept” of education entered the classroom. “The practice of our present system (of single-graded classrooms) did not evolve from any research base... but it evolved and became a deeply ingrained tradition more by accident and economics.”
Economic concerns affecting classrooms in the 1850’s are still weighing on classrooms today. “One major reason people find it plausible that schools are inadequately funded is that they know many schools aren’t performing well . There are factors besides spending that contribute to school performance.The soonerAmericans realize that schools...would not perform substantially better if they had more money...the sooner we can have a productive debate on how to make the system work better.”
This productive debate is best supported by research. Modern research into how students learn has exponentially multiplied in recent years. “Now that we have the scientific knowledge and empirical evidence to document the major differences in anatomical structure, neurological development, and the chemical and hormonal climate in developing boys and girls, we can innovate and sustain [the] educational techniques that bring the greatest benefit to all our children...”
Interestingly, this modern research is leading educators to employ teaching methodology that is inherent to a multi-grade classroom. “The more we learned [about multi-grade classrooms], the more we realized that grouping children like a family is a more logical and humane way to raise children, educationally speaking. And frankly, we are highly impressed with the effect the family-grouped classroom had upon our at- risk learners, our gifted learners, our late bloomers and everyone in between. Does that sound too good to be true? Think, for a minute. Isn’t family the oldest, most time tested, most successful model within the realm of human existence? Families are the children’s first and foremost learning area, are they not?” And as a Bible-believing people, we know what the Lord has taught us about the important role family has in time and eternity.
*information WELS system