In the early days of schooling, children would often pile into a one-room school house. These kids were not sorted into different classrooms based on age or grade level. Everyone learned together and kids excelled based on their individual abilities. But then, things changed for many schools and the most common model involved sorting classrooms into grade levels. Should all schools go back to mixing age groups?
What is mixed age grouping?
Mixed-age grouping (also called multi-age learning) is the act of placing children at different age and grade levels in the same classroom together. Think back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse. While kids were in various grade levels, they all were in the classroom with the same teacher or set of teachers. Anytime children of multiple skill levels are in the classroom together, it is referred to as mixed-age grouping.
Benefits to mixing age groups in school
Studies have shown that mixed-age grouping teaches kids independence as well as teamwork. When kids of varying levels are placed in the same space, many will naturally work harder to achieve the next level. They also learn to work together with all people, not just their peers. In our homeschool, the kids all learn together, even though each of them is at a different level. That experience combines with research has convinced me that all schools should go back to mixed-age grouping.
Who uses mixed-age methods?
Most schools use it on a smaller scale. But Montessori schools, open schools, private schools, homeschoolers, and many others implement multi-aged learning for the full school day. Some schools have older students read to younger students during a small portion of the day. Other schools may have the children work together all day long, regardless of the difference in skill levels. In a homeschool, if there is more than one child, mixed-age grouping often comes naturally. Some homeschoolers teach the kids as a group, while others separate the learning.
Should all schools go back to multi-age learning?
Based on my family's experience, as well as extensive research I've done over the years, I would fully support implementation of multi-age learning in all schools. In my experience, there really haven't been disadvantages where the kids are concerned. It can sometimes be more challenging for the educator to teach kids of various levels. But with practice and the correct planning, for me it eventually evened out with teaching kids who were on the same level. The main issue that would come with converting all schools to this method is the change in the way the curriculum is handled. That in itself may be a hurdle for some schools. But in my opinion, it would be well worth the change.
What do you think? Should all schools go back to mixed-age grouping?