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Opinion, Policy, Promising Practices, Teaching

How do split-grade classrooms affect learning?

When split-grade classrooms are carefully implemented to support differentiated teaching and include appropriate professional development, as well as curricular and planning resources for teachers, the learning experiences for students in these classes are positive.

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Split-grade classrooms include students spanning two grades and are frequently deployed to balance class sizes, so that teachers aren’t teaching classrooms with too many students, and classrooms with too few students don’t stretch school district resources.

According to research about the experience of teachers and students in split-grade classrooms: 

  • Social outcomes (e.g.: student self-concept, social contacts and groupings, and leadership skills) show positive results for students in split-grade classrooms.
  • Strategies teachers can use to improve outcomes in split-grade classrooms include cooperative learning, peer tutoring and ability grouping, and formative assessment. These classrooms may also allow teachers to better differentiate student needs.
  • Because of the blended ages and grades, teachers have a range of additional tools they can use in split-grade classrooms. As a result, they need professional development in these differentiated strategies, as well as administrative support, including increased planning time and tailored curricular materials.
  • Parents’ concerns about their child’s academic success in split-grade classes are reduced over time, so educators should focus on engaging and educating parents of children in these classes.
  • Newer research is needed since much of it was generated in the 1990s.

When split-grade classrooms are carefully implemented to support differentiated teaching and include appropriate professional development, as well as curricular and planning resources for teachers, the learning experiences for students in these classes are positive.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RESOURCES 

Split grade classes: Is a combined grade the best for your child?

(Today’s Parent Magazine)

http://www.todaysparent.com/kids/school-age/split-grade-classes/

Split-Grade and multi-age classes: A review of the research and a consideration of the B.C. context. (BC Teachers’ Federation)

https://bctf.ca/publications/ResearchReports.aspx?id=5560

Combined grade classrooms (What works? Research into Practice)

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Demore.pdf

Combined grades: Strategies to research a range of learners in Kindergarten to Grade 6.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/combined.pdf


References:

Cornish, L. (2006). Parents’ views of composite classes in an Australian primary school. The Australian Educational Researcher, 33(2), 123-142.

Cornish, L. (2014). Parents’ perceptions of social-emotional issues in composite classes. TalentEd 28(1/2). pp. 13-23.

Dowling, D. C. (2003). The Multi-age Classroom. Science Teacher, 70(3), 42-46.

Heins E, Tichenor M, Coggins C. (2000). Multiage classrooms: putting theory into practice. Contemporary Education 71(3). pp. 30-35.

Lataille-Démoré, D. (2007). Combined grade classrooms, in What works? Research into Practice. Ontario: The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Demore.pdf

Mariano, L. T. and Kirby, S. N. (2009). Achievement of Students in Multigrade Classrooms: Evidence from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Working Paper (WR-685-IES). LA: Rand Corporation. http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR685.html

Mason, D. A. & Burns, R. B. (1996). “Simply no worse and simply no better” may simply be wrong: A critique of Veenman’s conclusion about multigrade classes. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 307-322.

Naylor, C. (2000). Split-Grade and multi-age classes: A review of the research and a consideration of the B.C. context. BCTF Research Report, Section XII, 2000-EI-02.

https://bctf.ca/publications/ResearchReports.aspx?id=5560

Ong, W., Allison, J., & Haladyna, T. M. (2000). Student achievement of 3rd-graders in comparable single-age and multiage classrooms. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 14(2), 205-215.

Veenman, S. (1995). Cognitive and non-cognitive effects of multigrade and multi-age classes: A best-evidence synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 65(4), 319- 381.

Veenman, S. (1996) Effects of Multigrade and Multi-age Classes Reconsidered. Review of Educational Research 66(3), 323–340.

Vincent, S., ed. (1999). The Multigrade classroom: A resource handbook for small, rural schools (Books 1-7). Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/multigrade-classroom-books1-7.pdf

Wilkinson, I. A., & Hamilton, R. J. (2003). Learning to read in composite (multigrade) classes in New Zealand: teachers make the difference. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(2), 221-235.

Meet the Expert

dan laitsch

Daniel A. Laitsch, PhD

Dan is an associate professor with the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University and a researcher with the SFU Centre for the Study of Educational Leadership and Policy. He co-edits The International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership and is active in the area of research utilization (www.sigru.org).

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