Multi-Age Grouping

In an ECCE centre there may be teachers who struggle with ways to meet the needs of all the learners in their classrooms. Alternately there may be some children who struggle with learning, others who perform well on their developmental tasks, and the rest fit somewhere in between. Each child has its own pace of learning. Within each of these categories of children, individuals also learn in a variety of ways and have different interests. However the curriculum used is most often driven by ‘one size fits all’ approach and with the expectations that all children will achieve the standards by the end of the academic year.

In response to this situation most often ECCE teachers and caregivers would use the concept of ‘differentiation’ to meet the varying needs of their learners. At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of ECCE teacher/ Caregiver to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. An ECCE Teacher / Caregiver may approach differentiation by (1) content—what the child needs to learn or how the child will get access to the information; (2) process—activities in which the child engages in order to make sense of or master the content; (3) products—culminating projects that enable the child to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a topic; and (4) learning environment—the way the classroom/ ECCE centre works and feels.

There is ample evidence that children are more successful in school and find it more satisfying if they are taught in ways that are responsive to their readiness levels, interests and learning profiles (Tomlinson, 2000). So it may be helpful for children work sometimes with like-readiness peers, sometimes with mixed-readiness groups, sometimes with children who have similar interests, sometimes with children who have different interests, sometimes with peers who learn as they do, sometimes randomly, and often with the class as a whole.

In the above context, Multi-age grouping refers to “a class grouping in which students of different ages and identified age levels are grouped together in a single classroom for the purpose of providing effective instruction” (Miller, 1995, p. 29). The multi-age environment is deliberately created for the benefit of children, not because of economic needs or declining enrolment. The intention is to allow children of various ages and abilities to progress at their own individual pace rather than according to specified objectives for a particular grade level.

mixed  age group -Lilian Katz

Research shows that multi-age groupings benefit both younger and older students in the classroom. According to Dr. Lilian Katz, “Mixed-age grouping resembles family and neighbourhood groupings, which throughout history have informally provided much of children’s socialization and education. The intention of mixed-age grouping in early childhood settings is to increase the heterogeneity of the group so as to capitalize on the differences in the experience, knowledge, and abilities of the children”. Moreover, children learn from each other and from older children- thereby facilitating cooperative learning skills. In rural areas multi-age grouping is more often a pragmatic response to the needs of communities, where it is practical to set up a single Anganwadi/ ECCE centre for a village or settlement. Various reasons such as insufficient students of a similar age, places with limited physical or human resources may seem viable to have a multi-age grouping in the ECCE centres.

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