Since the school’s inception, classrooms in Chelan Valley Independent School have all been multi-age. It was a conscious decision by the founders of the school, and as the years have passed and studies have come out, we are seeing the wisdom in their judgment.
One of the primary reasons CVIS endorses multi-age classrooms is that we believe strongly in the individuality of each student. Within a multi-age classroom, students aren’t considered a member of a grade grouping, but instead as an individual with qualities and capabilities that may or may not be the same as their peers. Consequently, developmental age becomes more important and teaching focuses more on the individual needs of each student in lieu of teaching to an imaginary middle. A common question asked regarding a student is, “What is his/her next step?” This question is asked regardless of where the student falls on the spectrum, whether behind or ahead of his/her grade level. And while instruction may involve whole group teaching, expectations will vary depending on individual needs and abilities. In other words, learning is learner centered and differentiated instruction is at the heart of the classroom.
We feel that there are many benefits to this approach. One obvious benefit is that there is more of an opportunity for a deeper teacher/student relationship to develop, and since a student will be with a teacher for a number of years, there will be increased continuity in many facets of their instruction. Subsequently, it is less likely that students will end up with gaps in their conceptual and skill development. Also, an advantage that may not be as obvious is that students accept each other more readily as they begin to recognize and value diversity in their peers. There is also more opportunity for modeling and peer tutorials in a multi-age setting.
Although teaching in a multi-age setting requires more from teachers in the form of curriculum preparation, organization, communication with parents, etc., the teachers at CVIS have seen the benefits daily and are committed to this type of classroom design. As parents and teachers work together to support their child’s learning, it is the multi-age classroom and differentiated instruction that we feel gives students the best opportunity for success in their learning.