Multiage educational practices are grounded in a philosophy that holds that every child can learn and has the right to do so at their own pace, that learning is a continuum rather than a series of steps, that diversity is not only a reality but is something to be embraced, and that a classroom is a family of learners. By purposefully structuring a class to include a span of ages and to take advantage of of the resulting diversity, students naturally become more accepting of one another's differences. There is an atmosphere of nurturing rather than one of competition in which children pressure one another to fit an arbitrary norm. The teacher finds himself or herself supporting each individual child as to their own complex set of needs rather than trying to lead a group of students to complete an age-based step.
The theories and philosophies that support a multiage educational environment are the foundation to all that follows. As multiage educators we measure ourselves and our actions by our own beliefs about learning. Here are some beliefs, philosophies, and theories that should help you reflect on the foundations of your own classroom program. They all are supportive of multiage educational structures.
A few years ago, John Tapper wrote about what multiage education really means. It is an excellent articulation explaining the whole idea.
Piaget, Vygotsky, Bandura, and Weiner all created theories about how children learn. Their theories also all fit well with multiage educational practices. The links on this page lead to some descriptions of their theories that help us understand why the things we do with kids work.
Multiage educator and author, Janet Banks wrote about supporting success and positive self-image in the classroom. Her article reposted here explains why multiage learning environments are so conducive to these attributes.
Sheri Suryan began teaching a single-grade classroom after having completed her student teaching in a multiage classroom. Using many of the strategies she learned in the multiage classroom to differentiate instruction for her 5th graders, she wrote the following article from her unique perspective.
Marion Leier is a multiage educator and advocate for all things multiage :-) She has written a number of articles and is currently involved in teacher training both in Canada and internationally. Both of the following articles provide wonderful arguments supporting multiage educational structures.