One of the most frequently asked questions from prospective Eastgate parents is how we meet the needs of all our students in mixed-age classes. How do we make sure that grade 6 students are doing work that is suitably challenging, while also making sure that the work is accessible to grade 4 students?
It is, indeed, a challenge to design the curriculum to meet the needs of students at different stages in their learning; however, it is important to remember that students in single-age groups are also at different stages in their learning. Each child brings a unique set of prior experiences, strengths, challenges and interests to the classroom, and each of those factors influences their progress as much (if not more) than their age. Moreover, learning itself is multi-dimensional and no single child will be typical, or average, in every dimension. For example, a child who is more advanced than most of their peers in mathematics might be behind in reading. This video unpacks that idea:
These are my key take-aways from the video:
- No child is average on every dimension of learning or progress, so designing curriculum for what is average or typical for a particular age group will not work for the individual students in that group.
- Designing the curriculum so that it can meet the range of abilities and needs in the group will make sure that each student benefits from it.
- Involving students in adjusting how they learn helps them to become self-regulated learners.
The idea of designing curriculum to be accessible to all students is called Universal Design for Learning, and this approach is central to the program at Eastgate Academy. We design the curriculum to be flexible and responsive to students’ prior knowledge, interests, abilities and needs. Because our classes are small, we can also help students develop the ability to make strategic choices about what and how they learn.
Because of the way that our program is structured, mixed-age groups are more of an asset than a liability. When the students in a class are all the same age, it can be easy to assume that the students are more similar than they are. In mixed-age groups, where the curriculum is designed for students at a range of stages in their learning rather than a particular age level, every student can find the just the right balance of support and challenge to get the most out of their learning.
You can find out more about Eastgate Academy here.