|Multi-grade Teaching - A Review of Research and Practice - Education Research Paper No. 12 (DFID, 1994, 63 p.)|
|Chapter 4 - Implications for the practice of multi-grade teaching and further research|
1. Are teachers aware of the different ways of organising the multi-grade classroom? (eg subject staggering, subject grouping, common timetable, integrated day?) Are teachers able to discriminate between optimal ways of organising the teaching of different subjects?
2. Are teachers given guidance on syllabus coverage across the day, week, term, school year in multi-grade settings?
3. Are teachers familiar with the pedagogic advantages (both cognitive and non-cognitive) of multi-grade teaching? Are teachers able to convince parents of the advantages?
4. Are teachers able and willing to encourage self-study and peer learning in multi-grade settings? Do teachers have access to an adequate supply of high quality materials for self-study and peer learning? Do teachers have the possibilities of creating their own materials for self-study and peer learning?
5. Do teachers have access to effective and practical means for assessing learning outcomes in multi-grade settings on a regular basis? Do those assessments enable teachers to set learning tasks of an appropriate level for students on an individual basis?
6. Are teachers aware of the variety of ways of grouping students for learning (eg whole class, sub-groups, pairs, individuals?) and of different criteria for subgroups (eg by achievement, interest, friendship)?
7. Have teachers established classroom routines so that learning may continue even in the absence of the teacher (eg through the use of student monitors and access to self and group-learning activities?)
8. Are teachers sensitive to alternative ways of using space and arranging resources inside and outside the classroom for multi-grade groups?
9. Are teachers able to request support from higher levels of authority for problem-solving in relation to multi-grade teaching?
These questions may be regarded as a checklist of use in both assessing the present status and support for multi-grade teaching, and stimulating discussion at different levels of the education system about improved ways of supporting the teaching of the multi-grade teacher and the learning of the multi-grade student. As well providing a useful framework for dialogue between policymakers and practitioners, each could also usefully provide a framework for further developmental research.
The questions pitched at the level of the teacher and the classroom are particularly amenable to action research by teachers and teacher educators. Action research is distinguishable from other types of research in a number of ways. Action research is a form of self-reflective enquiry conducted by educational practitioners to understand practice and improve it. It may be undertaken by an individual practitioner or undertaken collaboratively. It involves the definition of a problem and the trying-out of an idea with a view to changing or improving a local or immediate situation.
The questions pitched at the level of the regional or national authorities are also amenable to action research by practitioners and policymakers working at this level. In practice however few have the time, resources, skills and interest in conducting the type of research which has implications which go beyond their immediate and local environment. In such situations outside researchers can play a useful role, especially where insiders are interested in seeing the research conducted. Research may usefully be seen as an extension of the process of dialogue.
It is also important to understand that not all useful research is executed quickly, nor do all research results have immediate application. National authorities may sometimes need evidence provided by long term evaluation research of the kind reported in the Escuela Nueva programme if they are to promote national level reform. Teacher education institutions may need a critical mass of staff members who have conducted longer term research on multi-grade teaching and associated strategies (eg self-study, peer-learning), or who have direct experience of working in these settings, if they are to carry conviction with teacher trainees about the benefits of multi-grade teaching.
Teacher education institutions and university departments of education are members of national and international academic and professional hierarchies which legitimise some types of knowledge as more valuable than others. It is symptomatic of both hierarchies that the realities facing the multi-grade teacher world-wide barely warrant a mention in national and international education research agenda, in priorities attached to training scholarships, in books about the problems of education, in manuals on effective teaching, in information and dissemination networks and in teacher education curricula. This review and the research it will hopefully support in the future are an attempt to reverse this trend.