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An industrial model - batches of learners

Cross blogged from Hynessight

A controversial discussion - the first for me in 2016.

A recent post in the Facebook NZ Primary Teachers Group got me wondering about whether some teachers would ever get over the industrial model of schooling.  The post started with a question as to whether it was acceptable for a year 5 student to be promoted to year 7, as the poster had heard that this was happening to a child. 

I am disappointed to say that the post has now been removed, so either someone became abusive or the instigator of the discussion withdrew the post, maybe because it was too controversial.  So I have to try and reconstruct it from memory rather that actual postings but it went somehow like this.

My reply to the first question was that it was fine and that the child could simply be thought of as working at an advanced level.  Not "missing a year or two".  Other contributors came into the discussions and said that the child would probably be too immature to be able to cope at the next level(s).  They said there would or could be an emotional and social toll on the child and that a number of factors needed to be considered like friends at that level. 

I suggested that grouping all students together, based on their age, was an artificial concept anyway (arising from the industrial model that Sir Kenneth Robinson talks about in this video.  We are still educating children in batches. (Check it out around the 6 minute mark).  The most important thing about kids is NOT how old they are.  Sir Ken is saying it is time to change the paradigm and I agree.
I posted in the Facebook that it happens in work, that people of different ages work together and it works fine there.  But this was met with opposition as there was "not a lot of difference between a 30 and a 32 year old working together."  But sometimes there is, of course.  Sometimes, colleagues of the same age can be quite immature, and others more mature.

The question to me is about should the child work at the same level as their age counterparts or should they work at the level which extends their intellectual capacity?  A modern learning environment, MLE or ILE, should allow students of different ages to work together - emotionally or socially disparate they may be. 

I so wish the conversation could have continued.  I am very interested in what others think.

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Comment by Hazel Owen on February 15, 2016 at 16:43
Really interesting discussion, Leigh!
It's a conversation that the gifted and talented folks have been having for a while. For example:
Gifted students should be with students their own age. The worry expressed here is that something inappropriate or untoward will occur if different age groups spend time together. Parents, teachers, and administrators worry that groups of multi-age children will struggle with exploitation, intimidation, inappropriate modeling, and sexuality. This prevailing myth undergirds some advocates’ preferences for educational models that emphasize enrichment rather than acceleration. The logic is as follows: “We should keep the students together even if they have already mastered the material.” Some believers of this myth will claim that research supports this point, but in fact they are mistaken. Writers have published this sentiment, but research does not support this idea. In fact, in my research with Larry Coleman, it is clear that gifted students need opportunities to be together with their intellectual peers, no matter what their age differences (Coleman & Cross, 2001). While there are plenty of appropriate reasons to provide enriching educational experiences, these decisions should not be made out of fear, worry or myth; they should be based on the needs of the students (Cross, 2002, Para 3, Competing Myths) [emphasis added].
The Montessori approach has mixed age-groupings, and Jan Gaffney Montessori explains that while "it can be true that older children may behave differently and try things that younger ... children wouldn’t ...; for example experimentation with the use of ‘interesting’ language. The focus of the community is on enabling all the wonderful things inherent in multi-age groups" (2008, Para. 3, Montessori Myths). 
In reality, even in a class of children all of the same age group, the ability and interests of vary widely and the introduction to ‘interesting’ language is still occurs. Having a class of children with a range of ages does not affect the ability of the teacher to effectively teach them. The Montessori-trained adult understands your child’s developmental needs and will develop individual plans so that your child can learn at his or her own pace, not having to rush to keep up with someone else or wait for others to catch up (2008, Para. 4, Montessori Myths).
Both make pretty strong points - decisions "should be based on the needs of the students" and "individual" approaches provided. These aspects link quite closely to the points Jan-Marie makes in her post Andragogy vs Pedagogy - Makes me want to scream! It feels as though often (with younger learners in particular) we don't always consider all human beings, of all ages, as 'whole' - with needs (emotional, intellectual, and physical), and some preferred ways of doing things (including learning). 
I get a sense that it is a conversation that needs to be had way more often! Thanks for re-starting it here, Leigh :)

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