Kids Learn From Each Other In Multi-Age Classrooms, Study Finds

Release Date: July 12, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A little mixing and mingling never hurt anyone. In fact, major socialization benefits can result from grouping children of different ages in the same learning environment, a study conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo Early Childhood Research Center has found.

The study, published in the current issue of Day Care and Early Education, suggested that both older and younger children may learn from each other when sharing the same classroom.

Researchers observed approximately 55 children enrolled in the center's program during the fall 1991 semester, combining the 2-year-old toddler class and the 3-to-5-year-old classes.

They found that the multi-age grouping both encouraged and nurtured modeling, peer interactions and autonomy.

Older children had an opportunity to validate what they knew by assisting younger children in different activities, said study co-author, Betsy Mercado, a doctoral candidate in early childhood education. They also learned to adapt their speech to a younger audience with less-developed language skills, Mercado added.

The younger children learned from interacting with older classmates and asking questions. "Sometimes children learn more effectively from their peers," she said.

Moreover, children with certain learning styles may learn more readily from older classmates than adults, Mercado said. In this type of environment, the teacher serves as more of a facilitator, added Deborah Schrier, the study's other co-author and a doctoral candidate in early childhood education. "Our whole curriculum is based upon play," she said.

Researchers found that creating an effective, multi-age environment takes planning and sometimes improvisation. "It's an ongoing process in terms of meeting and addressing children's needs," said Schrier, adding, "you're always learning."

Team-teaching was important to implementing the multi-age program, the researchers said. Early group meetings of staff and administrators were essential to getting the program started. In addition to lead teachers, student interns and parent volunteers were part of the team.

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