As principal, I am awarded the privilege of observing every classroom every day all day. Before I leave my office to begin my visits, I know the purpose of my ‘tour.’ Observations may be categorized as ‘Walkthroughs,’ where I stop by each room, spend a minute or two and move on. It may be ‘Informal’ requested by the teacher for a specific purpose i.e. watch a demonstration, a presentation, a classroom play, an experiment, or ‘Formal’ as required by law where the teacher and I work to improve classroom outcomes. No matter what type of visit or observation is decided upon, my experience is always enlightening and educational for me.
The purpose of the above explanation is first to point out that our teachers are considered to be one of the best ‘complete’ faculties in the Diocese. Based on our formal observation model of ‘Gradual Release of Responsibility’ our teachers approach every class by having students; a.) Understand the expectations of the current work and assignment. This is the ‘Focused instruction’ designed by the teacher b.) Students then begin work through a ‘Guided instruction’ approach where they work in groups (peer tutoring), with a designed rubric and direction from the teacher when needed. Independent group research begins here c.) The third step, ‘Collaborative learning’ is a serious step in that students are allowed to work in their groups to research (each student has a specific job in that group), collect data, to formalize their presentations if to be able to ‘report out,’ to the class and teacher. And finally, ‘Independent learning’ where students are individually allowed to work at their respective paces; this may be homework, and extra project, more advanced research, time to catch up. All of this information is to state that ‘Mastery’ of subject matter is the ultimate goal. The St. Edward staff is extremely proud and dedicated to high academic standards. As parents, you see your child grow at a consistent and advanced pace. With continued ‘Professional Development’ our teaching staff uses the best possible ‘educational practices’ through the school year. We are Blessed and very fortunate, that led by our teachers, there is no better classroom for your students than St. Edward.
Now, to the point of today’s topic, how would a St. Edward classroom look like in a multiage setting? All of the details I outlined in the above paragraphs holds true for the multiage classroom. So what is the difference?
- The teacher’s approach in every class and every subject changes simply because wonderful opportunities are now available in the way they approach the ‘Individual’ student. There is more emphasis placed on ‘Focused and Guided’ instruction. Teaching Math and Science, designed by the teachers allows for the, ‘Grouping according to ability,’ differentiate the work and advance to subject matter in a timely manner. The fact that groups will be bigger and more diverse allows the teacher to be able to work with individuals/groups in a number of areas. Moving through the room observing and keeping students on task, clarifying and answering questions at that moment is extremely advantageous.
- The timing couldn’t have been better in implementing the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP). These assessments are now allowing us to directly link students on ALL levels with the necessary material to enhance their personal growth. The next two points are two of the most important aspects and opportunities that a multiage design allows us to incorporate as a part of our school curriculum.
- RtI (Response to Intervention) In our current single age classroom design we have never been able to fully formalize this program. With a multiage design, struggling students will now get the attention they need on a regular basis. Coupled with available aides we will be able to ‘pull out’ students for the extra help they need. A multiage design is going to allow us to establish an educational and measureable program dramatically improving our effectiveness for all students.
- THE ADVANCED STUDENT. This caliber of student performs at a very high academic level. Many times they complete all classroom work, assignments, homework, etc. at a faster pace than the classroom on the whole and in the long run must learn to be patient and creative as an individual. Unfortunately, at times boredom sets in for some individuals resulting in poor classroom work. What’s important here is that with the MAP assessment and the multiage structure, the advanced student will now be given the proper attention needed to satisfy their intellectual level and curiosity.
In conclusion, the success of students in a multiage structure is driven by the teacher. The delivery of material is designed by the teacher to assist every INDIVIDUAL STUDENT in that class. The academic standards at St. Edward will remain as high as we’ve come to expect and appreciate.
Take care, stay safe and healthy and God Bless your family!