- Chicago charter CICS West Belden is among schools experimenting with a team teaching approach in a multi-age classroom for personalized learning, according to The Hechinger Report.
- The school is experimenting with new nontraditional grade combinations to allow a focus on the individual needs of students and to allow students to get needed supports from above or below their current grade level.
- Most of these multiage arrangements at the school are teacher-led, and the school is tracking data to see whether different multi-age combinations benefit student achievement.
The idea of multi-age classrooms is not new. In fact, the notion preceded the idea of grade levels in education. But the growth of personalized learning and the expansion of technology in the classroom is allowing schools to explore innovative ideas when it comes to team-teaching and multi-age classrooms.
There are benefits to the approach because having students work together across grade levels is a more natural arrangement. In most situations in life, including families and work situations, people are interacting with various age groups and ability levels all the time, so school settings are not that different. In fact, research indicates that multi-age groupings actually improve social emotional learning and class bonding.
While there is still more research that needs to be done on the academic impact of such arrangements, anecdotally, multi-age classrooms appear to be working. CISC West Belden School reports that “multi-age classrooms enable improvement in both teaching and learning at West Belden. Combining students in multiple grades allows students the ability to move faster or slower in individual subjects. It also enables improved learning opportunities like spiraled curriculum and peer-to-peer learning, among others. Since teachers work in content teams across grade levels they have access to more resources to meet the differentiated needs of each student.”
Of course, the team-teaching approach has advantages and disadvantages, and success depends on the personalities of the teachers and the strategies they use. However, this is another example of what can occur when teachers are allowed the freedom to innovate.