Pass or Fail: Beneficial Classroom Methodologies

In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.

While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?

Do you feel the current U.S. school structure is effectively producing competent, well-rounded individuals? If you answered “no,” you’re not alone. Does it stand to reason that it may be time to entertain the idea of new education methodologies?

The Multiage Model

One such model is multiage classrooms, which are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. This approach indicates that students will be included in the same classroom for at least two chronological years, yet often longer. Additionally, the students would also remain with the same instructor for a minimum of two years.

The multiage approach allows teachers to see students as unique individuals with varying skills and capabilities. As multiage consultant and Swan School Director, Russell Yates notes: “Teaching strategies that support brain-based learning [teaching methods based on the latest research into how the brain learns] and emotional intelligence are a perfect fit with the multiage concept … [and] … there is no better environment in which children can learn than with an absence of threat, opportunity to make appropriate choices, pursue meaningful content, work collaboratively and have adequate time to complete their work.”

Teacher Advantages

Teachers report that they can, in fact, work with failing students. They are especially able to do so, during elementary-school years when the problem of retention or promotion is removed. Instructors are also able target underlying academic challenges and take the necessary time and steps to address them efficiently. The need to judge whether a student is ready to progress to the next grade is no longer relevant. Teachers are now free to examine problem-solving through their instructional strategies and use of supplemental supports.

Social & Emotional Advantages

The social and emotional benefits of multiage classrooms must also be considered, especially for students who are struggling academically. Teachers have reported that the multiage classroom model allows for a much greater degree of familiarity and mutual understanding between teacher and students. Deeper relationships can also form between teachers and parents, not only because the relationship period is extended, but also because of the increased social qualities of the classroom.

With greater consistency of teaching expectations and behaviors, there is a better sense of comfort and security within the multiage classroom. This allows students who might otherwise struggle with transitions to develop a sense of confidence. Students concentrate more, in the long term, on their academic development, as opposed to worrying about the social aspects of the classroom experience.

Can you see American schools altering their current structure to adopt the multiage approach? How do you think these classroom changes would ultimately affect teachers, students and parents?

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