Multi-age Learning Environments

Multi-age classrooms facilitate a developmentally appropriate and research supported learning environment, allowing all students to approach their learning from a place of strength and proceed at their own pace. Multi-age groupings support a modern approach to competency development. Children who have been in mixed-age classes continue to exhibit less aggression and more pro-social behaviours in subsequent years etc. (The Primary Program: A Guide for Teaching).

"Students in multi-age classrooms achieve as well or better than children in single grade class. Research also indicates that students in multi-age classrooms have more positive attitudes towards school, themselves, and others."
Colleen Politano
BC Bureau of Education & Research and National Award Winner for Innovation & Education

The varied levels of social, emotional and academic development found among students of different ages mean they can be both supported by and supportive of one another:

  • Children are invited to take charge of their learning, by making personalized choices with tasks and project work. This sense of ‘ownership’ and self-direction is the foundation for lifelong learning.
  • Children develop a sense of family with their classmates. They become a ‘family of learners’ who support and care for each other.
  • Older children serve as mentors and leaders and develop enrichment through an increasingly sophisticated understanding of that responsibility.  
  • Older students model good behavior and, through continual peer mentoring, stretch their teaching muscles and solidify their own knowledge.
  • 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, competence, and confidence.
  • Younger children actively seek out older children to develop skills and to acquire knowledge.
  • Multi-age play offers unique opportunities for creativity and the practice of skills.

The wider range of ages and strengths in a multi-age classroom also discourages age-grade expectations. Every child develops at their own pace. In a multi-age environment, teachers have the flexibility to focus on students’ individual learning needs and personal strengths, rather than the whole class progression through the curriculum at the same pace.

Pro-social learning environments, including multi-age classrooms, represent a powerful shift in education where from kindergarten to graduation, students are fostered to continually build the confidence, knowledge and competencies needed to succeed personally, educationally, and professionally.