At the Swiss School in Singapore, we follow the mixed-age learning approach.
A group of children at the age of seven already has diversity in their development. When entering school, children also first experience the diversity of gender related aspects, social and religious backgrounds.
Multiple class levels in one group opens up new possibilities to deal with the existent diversities. The learning process can be more inclusive and directed towards an open-minded problem-solving approach due to the mixed-age setting.
Mixed-age learning as a pedagogical approach
The teacher is aware of the many different layers of diversity in the class. The main goal of the teacher will be: students shall learn together and from each other. The elder students will take over certain responsibilities as the younger ones are introduced into society. The focus of teaching remains on the skills, bridging of diversities and the possibility of learning about the same content in different levels and ranges. Therefore, teachers will focus on social aspects and the individualization of the learning process equally.
As a teacher tackles an individual approach for learning, he or she respects the talents, interests, skills and challenges of the individual child as the focus of his/her teaching intentions. For example, the teacher creates individual learning fields which refer to aims and skills that lie outside of the individual comfort zone. The learning content of the whole class will be differentiated, so that the children can work on the same content but in accordance to their needs and goals. It is possible to adapt the speed of learning new content, to differentiate in scaffolding methods and to take in consideration a child’s current stage of development. Therefore, ritualization and individualization are key components for teachers to generate successful learning despite the diversity within the class.
The experience of growing up and learning in a diverse environment, where social and individual learning fields are common structures of a daily life, enables children to strengthen their faith in themselves, experience the value of being part of a community and take responsibility for their learning just as they interact with others.