Effective Multigrade Instruction....Part 2: Class Organization

Proponents of multigrade teaching in the developed world cite it as a "powerful pedagogical tool for promoting independent and individualized learning" (Little 2005). However, as normal-this is in the best case, with extensive resourcing and training/oversight/support/motivation. What is the applicability to the hardest contexts with the least resources? How can effective standardization be brought into these locations, based on the most suitable principles which can be extracted from richly resourced contexts? Little notes, quite succinctly, that "If 'Education for All' is to be achieved then the establishment and continuation of schools with multi-grade classes must be encouraged."

One area of Multigrade instruction cited by Little, and based on the Zambian teacher education program in 1989, focuses on Classroom Organization, which is suitable and applicable to multiple, low-resource contexts. Authors highlight their preferred methodology of curriculum and timetabling, in which common activities and the reduction of grade-related sequential work is focused upon. However, in playing the common devils advocate for applicability/suitability in the toughest contexts, this is predicated upon a reorganization of the curriculum based on learning outcomes, which is highly unlikely in low-resource settings (where a curriculum might not even be available), and where teacher-subject knowledge across age levels is not sufficient to master content knowledge to this degree.

Analysis of the Escuela Nueva program (with drawn-out examples of effective multigrade instruction including a rural-oriented curriculum and materials designed for self-study and individualized learning (key themes suitable to low-resource environments) has shown that progress is possible in these more remote, multi-grade schooling locations, but that progress is depedendent on "teacher will and committment" which is clearly better supported in a program such as Escuela Nueva that in regularized government school locations without supplemental NGO or programming support, and that critical programming inputs are required for positive learning and social results (again, deficient in the "normalized" low resource contexts).

From one of the largest overall literature reviews, the results and applicability/suitability of these approaches can be seen as severely limited for low-resource contexts. The focus, as always, will be on effectively incentivizing teachers to undertake the additional planning burdens required for effective multigrade instruction, with limited oversight and peer support to guide the processes. Teacher motivation and committment variables, highlighted again and again, are exacerbated in these situations in either "virtuous" or "vicious" cycles of performance in the classroom.