Education Canada Magazine

EdCan Network, Promising Practices

The Signal: Multi-Grading iGen-ers and Alpha Geners

A Slew of Signals



Multi-grading – combining two grade levels in one classroom – may not appear to be a signal of change at first glance. After all, it’s been around for generations; some might say since one-room schools. However, in Canada more than 20 percent of students were registered in multi-grade classes in 2015, with the number continuing to grow – an educational trend being experienced worldwide.1 And yet, what do we know about our current students’ (iGen-ers) and future students’ (Alpha Geners) experiences with multi-grading? Do we know how to meet their multi-grading needs?

So what?

This worldwide educational trend is based on research that shows students in combined classes performing as well and better than peers in single grade classes.2 Greg has seen first-hand how students benefit from some aspects of multi-grading, especially in the context of smaller class sizes. He has found that pedagogical practices such as differentiated instruction and heterogeneous groupings are proving (anecdotally) more effective in supporting student growth, development, and learning in a multi-grading context.

However, there is a gap in our knowledge about how best to educate iGen-ers and Alpha Geners in multi-grading classrooms. In a time when multi-grading is showing unprecedented growth, we need current research supporting best practice. And although teachers like Greg, relatively new to multi-grading, have been provided professional learning on multi-grading, it has not always been best suited to the needs of the multi-grade teacher. To compensate for this, Greg has had to create his own online/email groups and set up meetings and opportunities to connect with his multi-grade peers on the weekends and evenings. Since research on current best practice can be difficult to locate, there is an overreliance on teacher trial and error to determine what will best serve these new generations of learners, the increased diversity of student learning and developmental needs within one classroom, and also departmental/ministry expectations.

What next?

Supporting student success is the ultimate goal of quality teachers and quality educational programming. With multi-grading gaining momentum in Canada and internationally, we need to capitalize on its strengths. This requires systematic implementation and investigation of multi-grading in today’s educational contexts, with and for current iGen’ers and future Alpha Gen’ers, as well as a community within which to share this information with and between practitioners.


Participant reflections on signals of change

Participants at the 2016 EdCan Network Regional Exchanges discussed more signals of change than we could possibly cover — but we wanted to share a sense of their range and significance. We invited a number of participants to write a short piece reflecting on one of the signals they brought to the Exchange.


Discover more signals at:


We want to know what you think. Join the conversation @EdCanPub #EdCan!

Photos: Max Cooke and Yolande Nantel

First published in Education Canada, March 2018


1 Globe and Mail (September 17, 2015).

2 E.g. Gajadharsingh, 1991; Goodland, 1987; Veenman, 1995.

Meet the Expert(s)

Kellie Baker


Kellie Baker has been an educator for 22 years. She is currently completing a Ph. D. while teaching grade 5, PE, and post-secondary in St. John’s, NL. Kellie is the president of the NLTA Health Educ...

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Greg Woolgar EdCan Network

Greg Woolgar


Greg Woolgar is a Prime Minister’s Teaching Excellence Award recipient currently teaching Grade 5/6 multi-grade and pre-service teachers at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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