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close this bookMulti-Grade Teaching - A review of research and practice - Education research paper No. 12 (DFID, 1994, 63 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOccasional papers on education
View the documentAcknowledgements
close this folderChapter 1 - Multi-grade teaching: Concept and status
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe persistence of the multi-grade reality towards the close of the twentieth century
View the documentThe gap between the multi-grade reality, teacher education and curriculum assumptions
close this folderChapter 2 - Lessons from developing countries
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentZambia: Teacher education and support for multi-grade schools
View the documentPeru: Indigenous schools
View the documentSri Lanka: Approaching multi-grade via multi-level teaching
View the documentThe impact system of mass primary education
View the documentConclusion
close this folderChapter 3 - Research evidence on the effects of multi-grade teaching
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentCognitive outcomes
View the documentNon-cognitive outcomes
View the documentThe costs of multi-grade
close this folderChapter 4 - Implications for the practice of multi-grade teaching and further research
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentNational level
View the documentRegional/district level
View the documentTeacher/classroom level
View the documentBibliography
View the documentAnnotated bibliography

Annotated bibliography


Development of multi-grade and multi-level teaching strategies: Towards qualitative development of primary education in Sri Lanka, Maharagama, Sri Lanka, National Institute of Education, Primary Education Project

A 1988 study of entry competencies of Sri Lankan primary school children revealed a very wide range of competencies in language and mathematics in the first two grades. This leads to a recommendation that multi-grade teaching strategies should be used even in schools where there is one teacher per grade. A project in 20 primary schools aimed at developing effective strategies and materials for multigrade teaching is then described. This project has revealed the major considerations for evolving multi-grade strategies for possible future use in all schools and for inclusion in both initial and in-service teacher education. The exploratory nature of the project is emphasised and the conclusion, while hopeful, is very realistic about the mixed progress that has been made.

BARKER LUNN, J. (1984)

'Junior School Teachers: their methods and practice', Educational Research, 26(3):178-188

UK research that showed small schools made greater use of group and individual work, and less whole-class teaching, than larger schools. These approaches can promote attitude improvement but need teachers who are committed to mixed-age teaching.

BENNETT, N.; O'HARE, E. & LEE, J (1983)

'Mixed-age Classes in Primary Schools: A Survey of Practice', British Educational Research Journal, 9(1): 41-56

A report on the first stage of a Schools Council sponsored inquiry into vertical grouping in English schools (see also Lee, 1984). There is an increasing tendency for mixed-age teaching to be adopted through force of circumstance of falling rolls, rather than by choice. As a consequence, head teachers are often negative about it and feel their teachers do not like it. Parents too have been unhappy about its introduction with consultation. As a prerequisite for making suggestions for improving practice, there is a need to clarify the wide range of responses that have been adopted.


Too Small to Stream: A Study of Grouping in Small Junior Schools, Slough, NFER

A study of 28 small English schools aimed at comparing methods of organisation and grouping. While the majority of classes examined were mixed-age, it was found that mixed-ability grouping was only used where the age-range was small. There was a tendency in mixed ability classes to over-rate the ability of the older pupils and under-rate that of the younger ones.

BRAY, MARK (1987)

Are Small Schools the Answer? Cost-Effective Strategies for Rural School Provision, London, Commonwealth Secretariat

Arises from a workshop held in New Zealand in 1986 and attended by delegates from Commonwealth Pacific countries. Aimed at educational administrators at national and regional levels, but some points are relevant for those working at school level. Multigrade teaching appears as a possible strategy for the creation of viable teaching groups in small schools, and is compared with an alternative of biennial or triennial intakes. Bray contrasts the two views of multigrade: an evil to be lived with or a goal to be aimed at. He seems to adopt the latter view but recognises the difficulties associated with multigrade teaching. Some organisational practices are suggested, with examples, and a summary of basic practical advice is included. The need for multigrade schools to be staffed by high quality teachers is contrasted with the widespread lack of pre-service courses for multigrade teachers. New Zealand is given as a (lone?) example where all teacher training colleges provide experience of small school teaching.


'Student Achievement in Multigrade and Single Grade Classes', Education Canada, 29(2): 10-13

Their brief review of research literature concludes that there is little difference in achievement outcomes between single grade and multigrade classes, and that the latter are unpopular with teachers. Their own research in New Brunswick primary schools supports these conclusions.


'The New School Program: More and Better Primary Education for Children in Rural Areas in Colombia', in LEVIN, HENRY, M. & LOCKHEED, MARLAINE E. (Eds) Effective Schools in Developing Countries, Washington, DC, The World Bank

The Escuela Nueva programme is an attempt to improve quality while increasing access and retention rates in Colombia's rural primary schools. Multigrade teaching is an integral part of the programme, together with individualised learning, a rural orientation to the curriculum and the integration of school and community. Inputs include the training of teachers for the new system, the provision of instructional materials, demonstration schools in each district, and frequent supervisory visits. The authors give a very positive review of evaluations of the programme which reveal both cognitive and non-cognitive benefits to the children. (See also Psacharopoulos et al, 1993)


Multiclass Teaching in Primary Schools: A Handbook for teachers in the Pacific, Apia, Western Samoa, UNESCO Office for the Pacific States

A book full of practical suggestions for teachers, intended for use as a handbook in a five-day in-service workshop for multiclass teachers. The second part is actually intended for the organisers of such a workshop and suggests a timetable for the coverage of the first part of the book. This first part begins with a brief review of the difficulties and advantages of multiclass teaching, but consists mainly of seven chapters of excellent advice, illustrated profusely with concrete examples. This covers school and classroom organisation planning, classroom routines, grouping, peer teaching, and use of the local community. Many of the suggestions are simply good teaching practice, multigrade or not, and the book would be of practical use to all teachers, with or without the intended workshop.


Low-Cost Primary Education: Implementing an Innovation in Six Nations, Ottawa, IDRC

Project IMPACT was introduced into the Philippines largely as a strategy for cutting the costs of primary education through an increase in the pupil/teacher ratio, thus increasing the possibility of achieving universal primary education. At the same time, there was to be no loss of quality in the educational experiences provided. This book reviews the approaches, the development and the difficulties of IMPACT and related projects in Indonesia (PAMONG), Malaysia (InSPIRE), Jamaica (PRIMER), Liberia (IEL) and Bangladesh (IMPACT). These did not all include explicitly multigrade organisation but with the emphasis on modular instructional material, much of it self-instructional, together with the common use of peer-group learning and cross-age tutoring, multigrade approaches were always an option. The book is particularly useful as an account of the difficulties associated with the production and use of modular and self-instructional materials in developing country situations. The usefulness of detailed instructional guides and extensive classroom materials in the small school, multigrade contexts in Kalimantan (Indonesia) and Sabah (Malaysia) is emphasised. (See also: Socrates, 1983)


'Multiage Classrooms: An Analysis of Verbal Communication', Elementary School Journal, 75: 458-464

An investigation, in the USA, of the claim that multiage organisation increases communication and interaction between age groups. The results did not support this claim. Although communication between age groups is possible in a mixed-age classroom, it does not occur automatically, there is a need to build opportunities for such communication into the organisation of the class.


'Vertical grouping - A practice or a principle?', Forum, 21 (1): 19-21

Vertical grouping has developed in infant schools in the UK from a pragmatic observation of its beneficial effects, without any recourse to theoretical justifications. While clearly supporting the practice, Dixon recognises that there is little research and no theory to support it. She claims that vertical grouping does foster cognitive growth, particularly language development, but cites only research by Mycock (q.v.) in support. She condemns so-called vertically-grouped classes which are really just a collection of distinct "'mini-classes". Effective vertical grouping involves classroom reorganisation to take full advantage of the opportunities that the practice offers for enhanced social learning.

DRAISEY, A.G. (1985)

'Vertical Grouping in the primary school - a positive view', Education for Development, 9 (1): 3-11

Though primarily concerned with the situation in the UK, much of what is said is generally applicable. Falling roles may be the source of pressure for vertical grouping, but it should be seen as valuable in its own right, and not just as a response to a problem. The advantages of vertical grouping are rehearsed, although without hard evidence: an emphasis on individual levels of development, improved socialisation and linguistic development, longer teacher-pupil relationships, and greater opportunities for both slow and quick learners. The problems associated with vertical grouping are recognised and solutions are suggested, although the emphasis is on positive attitudes from the teacher to achieve success.

EWING, J.L. (1970)

Development of the New Zealand Primary School Curriculum 1877-1970, Wellington, New Zealand Council for Educational Research

Essentially historical, but makes the point that a large number of single-teacher and two-teacher schools have always existed in New Zealand, and do so to this day, so that preparation for teaching in such schools, with their multigrade implications, has been part of the teacher training programme in the country for a long time. There is even a question on handling such a school on an 1884 teacher training examination paper reproduced in the book! It is also mentioned that New Zealand has run courses in multiple-class teaching for teachers from Commonwealth developing countries since 1963.


'A Comparison of the Achievement of Multi-Graded and Single-Graded Rural Elementary School Children', Journal of Educational Research, 56(9): 471-475

Used matched pairs of boys and girls at 3rd and 5th grade levels in Californian rural schools. No differences in achievement between single- and multi-grade classes were found when tested reading, arithmetic, English, spelling and a general achievement test.

FORD, BONNY E (1977)

'Multiage Grouping in the Elementary School and Children's Affective Development: A Review of Recent Research', The Elementary School Journal, Nov 1977: 149-159

Ford argues that since research has provided little or no evidence of cognitive advantages from multigrade education, any defence of it must be on the grounds that it promotes social and emotional development. She lists the wide-ranging claims made for multigrade by theorists and practitioners before reviewing the research evidence. This evidence supports only some of these claims: improved self-concept and self-esteem, improved teacher-pupil relationships through longer contact, and better attitudes to school and work. Before assigning effects to a multigrade cause, however, it is important to determine what the differences are between what goes on in multigrade and in single-grade classrooms.


Teaching in the smaller school, Cambridge, Cambridge University press

Designed to be a "handbook to help teachers and headteachers meet the special demands of schools with fewer than 100 pupils". UK-oriented, so tending to assume resource and staffing levels higher than those to be found in developing countries. Practical suggestions are given on various ways of organising pupils, from whole school and whole class teaching through assorted forms of grouping to individual learning. Possible classroom layouts and simulated classroom models are described, including typical day patterns for different small school situations. A considerable section on project work is included. Later chapters examine the roles in a small school of headteachers, external support systems, and the wider community.


Inside the Primary Classroom, London, Routledge

Report on the findings of the ORACLE project (Observational Research and Classroom Learning Evaluation) in English primary schools between 1975 and 1980. The main concern was to study the effectiveness of different teaching approaches; this inevitably included observations in vertically-grouped classes. They found only slight differences between multiage and single-age classrooms. In the former there was, on average, a small reduction in the pupils' time-on-task and a slight increase in time spent on 'routine' interaction, and waiting for the teacher. It is suggested that these observations reflect the increased complexity of organisation required in vertically-grouped classes.


Progress and Performance in the Primary Classroom, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul

A sequel to Inside the Primary Classroom (q.v.), making further use of ORACLE data. Only scattered references to vertical grouping, but they conclude that the practice has no impact on pupils' academic progress.


Curriculum Provision in the Small Primary School, London, Routledge

Reporting on the PRISMS project, which examined practice in 168 small primary schools in England. In the schools concerned vertical grouping was almost universal. Various chapters point to the conclusion that teacher behaviour in vertically-grouped classes is remarkably similar to that in single-age classes. Teachers themselves generally felt that the differences were in degree rather than kind. The choice of whole-class teaching, various forms of grouping, or individual work was often determined by the perceived suitability of different areas of the curriculum. Whole-class teaching was commoner than might be expected, grouping was often organisational rather than collaborative (although collaborative grouping was found to produce the hardest work from the pupils), and individualisation of work generally meant individualisation of pace only, not of content.


'Vertical Grouping in Secondary Schools', Forum, 21 (1): 22-23

A brief account of a vertical grouping experiment in mathematics teaching in a UK secondary school; very positive about the effects on both pupils and teachers.


Educational Performance of the Poor: Lessons from Rural Northeast Brazil, Oxford University Press, for The World Bank

References to multigrade teaching occur only in passing. They see multigrade as a way of increasing efficiency through class size increases, which seem to have no effect on achievement (p202). Furthermore, their data on various grouping practices in schools in rural northeast Brazil (p103) lead them to conclude that segregating by achievement level has no systematic effect on teaching or learning.


Primary Education in England, London, Department of Education and Science

A study of the work of 7, 9 and 11 year-olds in 1127 classes in 542 English primary schools. It comes out against the use of mixed-age classes. It examines the "matching" between the level of work that students were actually been asked to do and the level it was felt suited their estimated ability. For 7 and 11 year-olds, single-age classes produced better matching of work to ability than did mixed-age classes. 11 year-olds in single-age classes also produced better reading and maths scores. Differences with 9 year-olds were smaller, but still favoured single-age organisation


'The Effective Small Primary School: some significant factors', School Organisation, 11(1): 115-122

Mixed-age classes are seen as an inevitable practice in small schools. Official criticisms of in various HMI reports are countered with data supportive of small schools and vertical grouping. The key to success is seen to be the use of appropriate pedagogical methods and class organisation particularly individual and co-operative group approaches to learning.


Small Schools and Combined Grades in Finland, Paris, OECD, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

For demographic reasons, combined-grade secondary schools are common in Finland. Common practice seems to have been for combined grades to have been taught as a single class, which often resulted in a reversal of the intended order of exposure to the curriculum for some of the students in the class. This document describes a "year course" experiment based on a spiral curriculum approach that allows the same general topic to be covered at the same time in up to four combined year groups, with each group studying the topic at its own appropriate level. The production of suitable instructional materials is seen as the key to success in this project. The concluding section gives a refreshing view of Finnish attitudes to combined-grade schools. They are not only seen as a fundamental part of the system rather than an anomaly, they are also accepted as a fertile ground for the development of new ideas for use in other schools, rather than merely as the recipients of modified practices devised elsewhere.

LEE, JAN (1984)

'Vertical Grouping in the primary School: A report of a study by Lancaster University on behalf of the Schools' Council', School Organization, 4 (2): 133-142

The emphasis in this study was on the reality of changing organisation to vertical grouping, which was found to be widespread but often comprising a very limited age range. The attitude of teachers and principals was found to be important for success, and their attitude was generally better when it was felt that vertical grouping had not been forced on them. In practice, it seems that teachers do not change their approach or organisation in a move to vertical grouping. While many felt they were making greater use of group-work, this was often just a form of physical organisation rather than a cooperative learning venture.


Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries, Oxford Washington, Oxford University Press/World Bank

This book reflects the World Bank's new enlightenment that the quality of learning in primary schools is important. Explicit reference to multigrade education is only brief: it is seen as one option for reducing disparities of access and achievement, and both the Indonesian Small Schools project and Columbian Escuela Nueva project are presented as successful examples of what can be done. It is pointed out, however, that multigrade approaches require specialised instructional materials and teacher education. In the more general discussion of learning quality, pedagogical practices that are cited as enhancing student learning include just those which many proponents see as necessary consequences of effective multigrade organisation In particular, cross-age peer tutoring is recommended as advantageous to both tutors and tutees.


Multigrade Schools in Zambian Primary Education: A Report on the Pilot Schools in Mkushi District, SIDA Education Division Documents No 47, Stockholm, SIDA

Multigrade primary schools have been introduced in Zambia as a way of extending full primary education opportunities to sparsely populated areas. This report suggests that the policy has been a success in terms of improved achievement, reduced attrition rates and a more positive attitude among pupils. At the same time, it does not try to disguise the difficulties which have been experienced, and it suggests that multigrade is still seen largely as a temporary expedient, in some areas at least. The fact that these schools tend to be in the poorer, more remote areas leads to problems of supervision and materials distribution, and limits the extent to which local community support can be realistically expected. The approach is clearly very demanding for the teachers. Although multigrade teaching has been introduced into teacher education courses, it is often not taken seriously, as a good performance may lead to unpopular posting to a remote area.


dersintegrerade Klasser; Fomst och spridning, Stockholm, Holan frutbildning i Stockholm Institutionen fedagogik

A report on the occurrence and distribution of multigrade classes in Sweden, principally those formed for educational reasons rather than because of pupil or resource shortages. There has been recent growth in support for such classes. A 1976 government bill included a passage encouraging age integration for the benefit of individual student development, and new curricula have supported such moves by removing year by year divisions and stressing inter-age cooperation. Teachers have expressed an interest in multigrade approaches as a means of developing more meaningful and stimulating teaching methods, but the report cautions against the belief that multigrade organisation by itself will lead to effective multigrade teaching. Data on the extent of multigrade shows that the proportion of 'boroughs' (kommuner) with such classes increased from 25% to 46% between 1982/83 and 1983/84, although the proportions of schools or pupils involved are not given.


dersintegrerade Klasser i Grundskolan: Fomst och spridning. Uppfnde kartlning lret 1987/88, Stockholm, Holan for lrutbildning i Stockholm Institutionen farn och ungdomsvetenskap

This is a follow-up study on the previous reference, giving data for 1987/88. By this date, some 35% of all Swedish primary classes had multigrade classes, of which 44% had introduced them for educational reasons and 20% giving a mixture of educational and resource-oriented reasons for introduction. A further 10% of all primary schools indicated that they planned to start multigrade classes; expansion seems to be continuing. Almost all of the multigrade classes involve integrations in the early years of primary schooling or between early and middle years. Upper primary classes still seem overwhelmingly to be organised along mono-grade lines.


'A Study of Multi-Age or Family-Grouped Classrooms', Phi Delta Kappan, 62 (7): 513-514

Two Canadian primary schools were studied over a five year period: one with multi-age classes of 3-year span, while the control had single-age classes. Little difference in achievement was found, although the younger children tended to benefit from multi-age classes. The children in multi-age classes did, however, show a more positive attitude to school.


'A Review of the Qualitative Research on Multigrade Education', Journal of Research in Rural Education, 7 (2): 3-12

Concerned primarily with the situation in US rural schools. The extra demands made on the teacher by multigrade teaching are emphasised, throughout, as well as the poor preparation given by initial teacher education course to meet these demands. The tendency for curricula to be inflexibly planned for single-age classes is also criticised. The second half of the paper is particularly interesting because it looks at accounts by teachers of actual practice in multigrade schools. The key advantages of multigrade are identified as the development of both independence and interdependence among pupils. The author identifies implications of multigrade for teacher preparation, classroom organisation and student learning.


'Developing a "distinctive approach" for multi-grade classrooms: Some preliminary considerations', Education Canada, 33(1): 24-29

In common with those in many other locations, the multigrade teaching concerns of small rural schools in Newfoundland and Labrador have received little attention. Mulcahy suggests that this may be due partly to their being considered as a temporary anomaly, and partly to the belief that a multigrade classroom is essentially the same as a single-grade classroom, and needs no special attention. Both of these are rejected. Parents, teachers and children all dislike multigrade classrooms, and Mulcahy argues that this is a consequence of a lack of concern for the pedagogical and curricular attention to the particular demands of they make. He calls for effective training of teachers to deal with multigrade schools and for modified or distinctive curricula responsive to multigrade organisation

MYCOCK, MARY A. (1967)

'A Comparison of Vertical Grouping and Horizontal Grouping in the Infant School', British Journal of Educational Psychology, 37: 133-135

An abstract of her MEd thesis in which she compared four English infant schools, all labelled 'progressive', two using vertical grouping and two using horizontal grouping. Her research showed that vertical grouping can reduce emotional stress, improve teacher-pupil relationships, and raise aspirations, but it has no effect on achievement. The quality of the teacher is seen to be crucial to the success of vertical grouping. She found some evidence that, in reading, vertical grouping benefits slow learners but not the quicker learners.

MYCOCK, MARY A. (1970)

'Vertical Grouping', in Rogers, Vincent R. (Ed) Teaching in the British Primary School, London, Macmillan

A fairly comprehensive review of the history, meaning and philosophy of vertical grouping in English primary schools by a keen advocate of the practice. She sees the educational principles behind vertical grouping as being an emphasis on the child as an individual and an agent in his or her own learning. A recognition of these principles, rather than merely a response to necessity, is the key to success. The wider implications of adopting vertical grouping are examined: the need for an unstructured day but a highly structured classroom, the change in the role of the teacher to being more of a facilitator of learning, and the greater demands of assessment and recording of individual progress.

NASH, R.; WILLIAMS, H.L. & EVANS, M. (1976)

'The one-teacher school', British Journal of Educational Studies, 24 (1): 12-32

A study of five one-teacher primary schools in rural Wales, with an average of 17 pupils in each, aged between 4 and 11 years old. What is remarkable is that despite the obvious multigrade situation of these schools, classroom organisation was most commonly one of grouping by age.


'Multi-age instructional settings in less developed countries', Prospects, 17 (4): 607-625

An analysis of IEA data from Chile and India to investigate the effect on achievement of having a wide range of ages within a primary school class. It is not always clear whether they are concerned with a range of ages in a single grade or in a genuine multi-grade situation, but they do mention the literature on multigrade teaching, and their conclusion that a wide age range within a grade has no significant effect on achievement can be read as being applicable to a multi-grade class.


'A Nongraded, Multi-Aged Program That Works', Principal, 68 (5): 29-30

A very brief description of a US experiment that mixed five- to seven-year-olds in one class, but with more than one teacher available, and with some returning to age-groups at times. Advantages are claimed in terms of the ability of the approach to be tailored to individual needs.


'On the Merits of Multiage Classrooms', Research in Rural Education, 3(3): 111-115

Through an interesting mix of ethnology, anthropology and history, the argument is made that mixed-age groupings are "natural" and lead to less tension and aggression. The introduction of single-age classrooms to the USA is traced to nineteenth century Prussian models. A review of thirty experimental studies in the USA and Canada concludes that it is the social and emotional development of the child which benefits from multiage classrooms, not academic achievement. It is further argued that, through greater flexibility, multiage classrooms can better meet the needs of both the exceptionally fast and slow learners without the social and emotional problems of grade skipping or repeating. While admitting that multiage organisation can be a strain on teachers, the author suggests the introduction of some cross-age activities into all primary schools.


'Achievement Evaluation of Colombia's Escuela Nueva: Is Multigrade the Answer?', Comparative Education Review, 37(3): 263-276

Cognitive and non-cognitive tests were used to compare children's achievement in Colombia's Escuela Nueva and traditional schools. The authors concluded that Escuela Nueva had significant independent effect on student outcomes, controlling for student background and school inputs. (They contrast this with the findings in industrialised countries that no cognitive effect is observed from multigrade teaching, although it should be remembered that multigrade is only one aspect of Escuela Nueva.) They consider multigrade, when implemented properly, to be an effective way of increasing achievement, but they include cautionary notes about their encouraging preliminary cost analysis and about the problems of replication of the project. (See also Colbert et al, 1993, for a description of the Escuela Nueva programme).


'Improving Instructional and Classroom Management Skills: Effects of a Staff Development Programme and Coaching', School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 2 (3): 192-212

This is a continuation of the work reported in Veenman et al, 1989 (q.v.), in which the effectiveness of an in-service staff development programme, designed to help teachers cope with mixed-age classes, was investigated. The new element reported here is the use of coaching of teachers to help them transfer the skills they had learned in the original programme. It was found that this coaching led to further increases in pupils' time-on-task levels, and to improvements in the teachers' ability to organise instruction and deal with disturbances.


'Family Groupings and the Affective Domain', The Elementary School Journal, 76: 432-439

A study in the USA of the effects of multi-age grouping on children's self-concepts and attitudes towards school, with a secondary aim of assessing achievement in reading and maths. Three forms of classroom organisation were compared: Complete Multi-age, with pupils from 5 years to 12 years mixed together; Restricted Multi-age, with 2 to 3 year age-span mixes; and a control of single-age grouping. The overall conclusion is that the affective components are improved by multi-age grouping while cognitive skills are not impaired. For Schrankler, one of the important points about multi-age grouping is that it offers pedagogical opportunities that are not possible in single-age classrooms.


'Learning from students: an important aspect of classroom organization', Language Arts, 68 (2): 100-107

Although the author is making general points about teaching reading and writing to junior school age children, these are based on recollections of her own teaching experience in a mixed-age classroom, and many of the techniques she describes make use of children of different ages working together.

SOCRATES, JOSE B. (Ed) (1983)

The IMPACT System of Mass Primary Education, Quezon City, SEAMED Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology

The primary concern of the IMPACT project is seen as the production of curricula and materials that will facilitate learning without the continual presence of the teacher. This is perhaps its key relevance to the practice of multigrade teaching. Three main modes of delivery were adopted to achieve this: (l) programmed teaching by an older pupil, (2) peer-group learning, and (3) individual study or self-instruction. As well as being descriptive of the system, various chapters provide useful insight into the complexities of materials production and implementation of such a scheme. (See also: Cummings, 1986)


Issues in the Development of Multigrade Schools, World Bank Technical Paper 172, Washington D.C., The World Bank

This paper takes a positive view of multigrade teaching, seeing the advantages as outweighing the disadvantages. It laments the fact that less developed countries have tended to see multigrade as an inferior solution made necessary by demographic and material difficulties, whereas developing countries have taken it to be a powerful pedagogical tool. One consequence for the LDCs is that have tended to retain single grade pedagogical methods in multigrade situations, thus failing to reap the potential benefits. The authors review the teaching practices which make best use of multigrade organisation supporting independent learning and peer tutoring in particular. Classroom and school issues are examined, notably classroom layouts, various forms of grouping and the materials and resources needed. Local and regional level support and advisory structures are seen as essential. Consequences for national policy of adopting multigrade approaches are identified as decentralisation of administration, greater flexibility in the curriculum, and, most importantly, the production of suitable materials and the provision of teacher training in multigrade techniques.


The One-Teacher School (24th International Conference on Public Education), Geneva, International Bureau of Education

Based on responses to a 1959 questionnaire to which 58 countries responded that they had one teacher-schools to a greater or lesser extent. This questionnaire asked for data on the extent of one teacher schooling, administration and organisation curricula, syllabuses and methods, and teaching staff, including training. Though very dated, the document is a useful indicator of both the widespread existence of one-teacher schools (which must be multigrade schools), and the widespread tendency to ignore their particular needs.


Education of Disadvantaged Groups and Multiple Class Teaching: studies and innovative approaches, Bangkok, Unesco Regional Office for Education in Asia and the Pacific

The report of a Study Group Meeting held in Jakarta in 1980. The experiences of and responses to multigrade teaching are given for the participating countries: India, Indonesia, Korea, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. This is followed by a comparative analysis of these reports. In all countries, multigrade is associated with disadvantages such as remoteness and under-development. Most countries recognise problems with curriculum, teaching methods and resources, but virtually all insist on a common curriculum for single-grade and multigrade schools, and include nothing on multigrade teaching in pre-service teacher education. A summary of various innovations being tried in the participating countries is given, while the final chapter outlines possible directions and priorities for the development of alternative approaches.


Multiple Class Teaching and Education of Disadvantaged Groups. National Studies: India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Bangkok, Unesco Principal Regional Office for Education in Asia and the Pacific

Multiple class teaching is seen as a necessity forced on schools in isolated rural communities by low population densities. These communities, through their poverty, are the main source of the "disadvantaged groups" of the title, although the term also covers Scheduled Castes in India and plantation workers in Sri Lanka. The first part of the report summarises general difficulties under two main headings: school-based problems and community-based problems. (The latter are often not peculiar to multiple class schools alone.) A summary of some of the innovative measures being tried out in the countries concerned reveals that strategies such as school consolidation, double shifts and "alternate day attendance" have been considered as alternatives to true multigrade teaching. The individual national reports then follow.


Multiple Class Teaching in Primary Schools: A Methodological Guide, Bangkok, Unesco Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

This is a synthesis of material from guides produced separately in India, Japan, Malaysia and Nepal. Although full of practical advice on teaching multigrade classes, it is probably not intended for use as a primary teachers' handbook as such, but rather as a resource for the production of such a book, or other teacher materials, in other countries. Principles and practical suggestions are presented on school and classroom organisation teaching strategies and techniques, materials production, and assessment and record-keeping. Many of the suggestions are generally applicable rather than being purely of relevance to multigrade classes. It adopts the position that multigrade school organisation is a response to difficulties and shortages rather than being a practice to be recommended on educational grounds, but it does list advantages of the approach as well as disadvantages and difficulties.


Multigrade Teaching in Single Teacher primary Schools, Bangkok, Unesco Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The result of a Training Workshop on Multigrade Teaching in Primary Schools in Jakarta, with participation and reports from twelve countries in the region: Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Maldives, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand. A report from each country is included, outlining in each national context the nature and incidence of multigrade teaching, population profiles of pupils in multigrade schools, difficulties faced by these schools and measures adopted to overcome them, proposals for improving multigrade schools, and inputs required. The synthesis of the country reports, while recognising advantages of multigrade, provides a long list of difficulties faced. These difficulties appear to arise from four major sources: curricula designed for mono-grade teaching, a shortage of teaching/learning materials, the tendency for multigrade schools to be in remote rural areas, and inadequate preparation of teachers for the handling of multigrade classes. The need for considerable further research is acknowledged, but a framework for improving multigrade teaching is proposed.


'Active Learning Time in Mixed Age Classes', Educational Studies' 11 (3): 171-180

A report of a study in the Netherlands of year3/year4 mixed-age mathematics and language classes. Their review of the literature on achievement and attitudes in mixed-age classes in the USA, UK and Netherlands concludes that the results are equivocal. Their own study found no significant differences in time-on-task between mixed- and single-age classes. Teachers found mixed-age class teaching more difficult, but claimed text-books did not take conditions in such classes into account. As a consequence, teaching tended to involve treating the two age groups as single classes, alternating with individual study.


'Training Teachers in Mixed-age Classrooms: effects of a staff development programmed Educational Studies, 15 (2): 165-180

The Netherlands has seen an increase in the use of mixed-age classrooms in primary schools, due largely to falling school rolls. Earlier studies by the authors identified the difficulties that teachers had handling these classes and an in-service programme was devised to help them deal with these difficulties: Dealing with Mixed-age Classes (DMC). This article is a report of an investigation into the effectiveness of this programme that used classroom observation techniques, pre- and post-training, in an experimental school and a control school. The programme was shown to lead to increased time-on-task for the pupils and improvement in teacher behaviour regarding effective instruction, lesson design and execution, and classroom organisation and management.

WAY, JOYCE W. (1979)

'Verbal Interaction in Multiage Classrooms', The Elementary School Journal, 79(3): 178-186

A study of the form and extent of verbal interaction between children of different age groups in multiage classrooms covering a variety of age-group combinations, in the USA. Way found that in a classroom with just two consecutive age groups combined, interaction between the groups did occur without either group dominating. Where three age groups were combined in the same classroom, however, little interaction occurred. Way suggests that the teacher may be responsible for this effect through a greater tendency to use age-group clusterings when the age range is larger.