Students in a multi-age classroom have an environment with increased similarity of the real world. Grouping students strictly by age does not reflect a naturalistic life-like setting in which people of different ages learn from each other. The benefits of multi-aged classrooms are numerous, see a detailed list below.
One major advantage to children in multi-age classrooms is the modeling that takes place. Younger students will imitate academic and social behaviors demonstrated by older children. In addition to this unintended, natural modeling, older students can also provide direct instruction to younger students. When older children ‘teach’ newly learned skills to younger classmates, they strengthen their own understanding of these skills.
In a group of children of different ages, competition is reduced and the atmosphere is generally collaborative. The group becomes a supportive family. Competition among students is replaced by a growing sense of community. There is less bullying, more taking turns, and greater social responsibility. Work in cooperative groups also improves because of the varying ages. The children in a multi-age classroom form a cohesive group and learn to support each other rather than to compete.
Multi-age classrooms provide older students with the valuable experience of developing their nurturing skills. These skills, crucial to parenting, manifest themselves naturally in a mixed-age setting. Mixed-age grouping can provide older children with the opportunity to be helpful, patient, and tolerant of younger peers’ competencies, and thus give them some of the desirable early experiences of being nurturing that underlie parenting and helping others who are different from oneself. The presence of younger children also helps antisocial older children. Younger children are particularly helpful in reducing the isolation of socially withdrawn older children. Also, helping others can help older students’ sense of self-confidence. Being needed and admired by less able students improves a student’s self-concept.
Students in multi-age classrooms become the experienced students in the room. This phenomenon leads to the natural assumption of leadership roles in play and classroom activities. Children feel greater sense of responsibility because they are knowledgeable of the various roles and routines. Younger students are given opportunities to engage in more complex activities than they could initiate on their own.
The multi-age classroom becomes a positive, nurturing, and safe environment for its students. When this type of environment is provided, the result is happy children. Multi-age education emphasizes building upon strengths which builds self-esteem. It also focuses on the whole child, not just his academic skills; a child’s gift for social interaction or artistic expression is valued as well. When students are happier in their school environment, they learn better