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Early Childhood Mixed Aged Practices

Early Childhood: Implications for Practice

Grouping children in classes with a wide age range cannot by itself yield the benefits implied by the research on crossage interaction and multiage grouping. If these benefits are to be realized, the curriculum must be modified to provide a variety of activities in which children work together on projects and other activities, preferably in small multiage groups in which each individual can contribute in different ways to the total effort (Katz and Chard, 1989; Blumenfeld et al., 1991).

Teaching strategies likely to result in children's realizing the benefits of a wide age range include encouraging more knowledgeable and experienced children to assist less able ones, regardless of age, as needed; encouraging younger children to request assistance from more competent classmates; and encouraging older and more experienced children to take responsibility for helping the others.

Each grouping arrangement has its risks. A risk of homogeneous age grouping is that some children will become acutely aware of failing to live up to normative expectations for behavior and achievement for their age. Risks of mixedage grouping are those of younger children becoming burdens to older ones and being overwhelmed by more competent classmates. Teachers must keep in mind the risk of overlooking older and more experienced children's need for challenge, but this is the case in every class, even when student age is not a factor. Research on mixedage grouping suggests that in spite of its risks, its potential advantages outweigh its disadvantages (Katz et al.,1990).

This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. OER188 062012. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI. ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated.

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For questions about this information, contact Sherry Kimball (608) 267-9625