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Blog – 14/01/2020

Multi-Age Classrooms: The Way of The Future?

An integral part of our mission at New Nordic School to change the future of education is to personalize the child’s learning journey. Multi-age classes create optimal conditions to realize these goals.

What is a Multi-Age Classroom?

A multi-age classroom is the purposeful grouping of students of different ages to form learning communities. As opposed to the traditional model of dividing students according to the year they were born, the multi-age classroom is comprised of 2 or more age-groups in one environment. Students learn both independently and from each other while progressing at their own pace along their own learning path. The teacher facilitates learning through observation, guiding and of course, direct teaching.

“Education is a journey, not a race.”
Rudolph Steiner

Traditional education assumes that all students in the classroom are at the same point in their learning journeys. It places children of the same age in the same classroom, working on the same learning outcomes at the same time. Sounds repetitive – it can be. In multi-age groupings, children build respect, academic achievement, socio-emotional development, acceptance, kindness, confidence, and adult-child relationships. Together with their classmates, they develop critical 21st-century skills such as collaboration, communication, initiative, leadership, and flexibility. Multi-age classrooms place learners at the center of their educational continuum.

Students as Learners and Leaders 

When older children start mastering skills, concepts, and knowledge, they get to share their learning with their younger peers. There needs to be a deep, enduring understanding of a concept to have the confidence to teach it. This act also contributes to building leadership skills as older students learn to manage younger peers and solve problems while teaching or ask for support. These are vital skills needed in further education, real-life and in the workforce. By developing this skill in the younger years, it becomes part of a student’s educational DNA.

For younger students, to be able to look up to and learn from older peers (who many idolize) brings them independence and security. This serves them as they grow by giving them the confidence to question others and to stand up for themselves. Mutual respect reduces the instances of bullying as kids get to know each other and work and play together. As the younger students grow and become the ‘older kids’, their roles in the classroom develop, enhancing their confidence and self-worth as they grow into a position to help and support the newest ‘younger ones’.

Being in mixed-age classrooms also makes a learning journey truly personalized. Children do not look at each other’s ages and say ‘Oh! You’re five and can’t read your numbers’. In an environment where there are many levels of teaching and learning happening at the same time, the differences between students aren’t highlighted. Through their observations, assessment, and record-keeping, teachers can identify and address each child’s needs at their own level. They can give them the support they need to take them to the next level of understanding as opposed to teaching a whole class of similarly aged students the same thing, at the same time. Even though the teacher is closely following where a child is on his/her learning journey, the child leads his/her own learning by mastering basic skills, concepts, and knowledge before moving on to the next stage.

Education is about Relationships

One of the key advantages of mixed-age classrooms is the student/teacher bond. When a teacher follows a child’s educational journey so tightly, a deep understanding of a child’s individual needs develops. This strengthens the relationship between the teacher and the student. The personalized journey also engenders respect between the two, as a teacher guides a child along their educational journey at a pace that is challenging enough to promote advancement but also attainable enough to make it achievable. Having the same teacher for multiple years also allows for a deeper personal understanding of a child to be able to support them through challenges.

The early years of a child’s life are a rapid time for development. This pace is different for each child. Allowing them to be in a learning environment that caters to their personal needs is crucial to developing in them confidence, respect, leadership, self-motivated learning, academic confidence, and socio-emotional skills. New Nordic School believes a multi-age approach offers the tools and support to realize individual and meaningful learning. We are passionate about our students flourishing under the optimal conditions.

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By Suzanne Perkowsky

Co-founder and Head of Education
suzanne.perkowsky@newnordic.school
New Nordic School
Espoo, Finland


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