Teaching stages, not ages.
Tullimbar Public School has created stage-teams for our classes. This ensures that our school is up to date and ready for the changes and challenges occurring at a rapid rate in NSW Education.
Stage based classes is a style of classroom organisation with its basis in the educational belief that the individual child is important, learns at his/her own pace and should not have their learning restricted to a confined grade or period of 12 months. Legislation allows students to start school from between 4 ½ years and 6 years old so essentially all classrooms have always been multi-aged classrooms. This range of ages continues to be reflected throughout the schooling process.
The key to understanding stage-based classes is realising that growth is determined in stages and not by ages.
In the classroom, students are grouped according to their progress rather than their school chronological year. Children also develop positive attitudes to other children of different age groups and relate well to them, similar to the way they do in ‘out of school’ situations. We feel this is more natural for them. It also allows smaller class sizes in the primary.
Strengths of stage-based classes:
- The syllabus documents (by which we teach) are in stages. Many resources that are commercially available are marketed in ‘years’ which can be misleading for parents/carers
- No ‘one’ group is seen to be disadvantaged. All classes in each stage will be given the same opportunities, expectations and strategies
- It acknowledges that there are significant individual differences in each child to be addressed regardless of age. The formation of classes can reflect and cater for these individual differences
- Department of Education documents refer to ‘stages’ of development and reflect the developmental nature of learning in young children. The organisation of classes should consider current research on learning and best practice in teaching and learning
- It makes sense to group children who are going through the similar stage so they can relate, help and experience together. Even within the same class, children will be at different levels. Teachers recognise this and usually extend the work of those who learn more quickly and give support to those who don’t. The class then becomes outcome based rather than competition based
- A multi-age philosophy places each learner at the centre of the considerations of curriculum and classroom practice. Children are able to progress at their own rate without regard for restrictive ‘grade’ expectations
- Students are shown to become more confident, can operate better as part of a group, are more assertive, become more independent learners and better problem solvers. They also make friends outside of their standard age-groups, and develop tolerance and diversity
- The fundamental difference between multi-age grades and straight age grades in in the way the curriculum is planned and delivered. In our multi-age learning groups, we accept that different children learn at different rates. Our integrated curriculum is planned to reflect the developmental stages of the children.
- A key difference between students in stage-based classes rather than grade-based classes is that they appear to be more caring and cooperative with each other. Diverse social groups provide opportunities for the older children to reflect on the needs of the younger ones. Year by year as the classroom structure changes, all children gradually find more opportunities to develop and practice their own leadership skills.