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Jake Frackson

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If we didn't educate students in "batches", how would their social development differ?

If we stopped educating students in "batches" (a reference from Sir Ken Robinson's "Changing Education Paradigms" TED talk), how would their sociological development change? Rather than classifying them by "date of manufacture" what if we organized them according to learning styles and abilities depending on the subject, how would that affect them socially in comparison to students currently? Would students be embarrassed to be in a class with younger and/or older peers? Would the differences in level of maturity and range of social skills make learning in this kind of model more difficult? Would this system help students to be more open with their peers, no matter their age? Would it also help reduce agism in the education system and possibly the world? Ultimately, would it be a worth while investment to experiment with this model on a larger scale?

Additional questions, answers, opinions or any other sort of comments are welcome! I'm a Canadian high school student who is curious about education and I would appreciate anything you have to offer on the topic.

Cheers, Jake Frackson

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  • Aug 30 2012: Education by groups is based on a cost-benefit analysis. It is like eating junk food.
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    Aug 29 2012: Fascinating Jake!

    I think if education was more ranged it would make the world a more social environment one group of students at a time. I do think that age oriented classrooms are very much creating dissent among other age groups, where we know it as ageism. There is also wisdom to be shared among different age groups all residing in a classroom. I think, though, something needs to be addressed about an age cap or maybe a sexual harassment seminar needs to be held at the beginning of each class, just in case the ages differ that much. BTW, did you have a specific range of grade levels in mind? I think colleges are prime examples of this model of schooling because you can sit in a classroom with a 12 year old child prodigy and also have an 80 year old widower sitting in the same classroom, then imagine a peppering of ages in between and that is a college setting. You get to learn so much from the college dynamic, but just learn to filter your surroundings quickly.

    Thanks for reading my thoughts.
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    Aug 28 2012: I think I can address social development and education all at once. Develop a master course map that identifies all subjects with pre requisites. Develop modules and successful completion of a module (based on competent / non-competent tests) would allow you to progress at your speed of learning while staying with your peer group for social development. If you really excell at math then you could complete high school requirements in maybe two years and go to the college level modules. Computer monitoring would monitor you module completion and guide you into a balanced course management. All math and no english or science does not make a rounded student.

    If this were an accepted educational system then the merge of high school and college could .. could ... occur. There is a need for labs and interaction among students at specific levels . age is not a consideration ... you earn your place in the labs or practicums.

    We have the technology to make this occur through on line, and computer resources.

    I have mapped this out and have had it evaluated and accepted as a valid educational application. The problem was to assign rubricks to each module that would incorporate college standards and academic requirements. That would require that all course modules to be approved to the highst levels.

    Just a thought. Feedback>

    Bob.
  • Aug 28 2012: Awesome! :)
    Well, it depends on students' personalities, if you ask me.
    But for me, I would definitely love to be with older or younger students in a class.
    I'm going to college next year--in Canada :) , btw
    Even though I have to study with same age group, I wish I could study with more various age group.
    Of course, there would be some pros and cons...
    As for the 'cons' part...

    1 It could be a little awkward to make boyfriends or girlfriends on campus.
    2 It could be less vitalizing if the age gap among students are huge compared to the original college model.


    However, we, youngsters, can learn lots of valuable lessons from our older peers.
    And the class would be ironically more dynamic.
    With new educational experiment, the college members could get amazingly fruiftul outcomes.

    I really love your idea!
    We should make that kind of college in the near future. :)
    chop, chop!
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    Aug 27 2012: I'm glad to see a lot of positive feedback for this question. I'd like to now suggest looking at it from a different angle: In the development of a new born there is a vital time in which he/she needs to learn how to crawl. If the child is moved directly from sitting to standing to walking, they will not be given the opportunity to fully develop those particular motor skills. Do you think this might transfer to education? If a student shows the ability to move on, should we allow them to at their own pace, even if it means that some of the social skills that come with it may not be fully developed (i.e. ability to collaborate, a basic understanding of ethics, etc.)?
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    Aug 27 2012: I love the video you reference.

    putting kids into batches may be helpful for some, but it may be detrimental to others. Also, one student can be very curious about one subject and want to move ahead of the class, while another is bored to death with it and simply does enough to get by.

    I think that if you put a cross segment of students in the cafeteria at the same time, that they will group themselves as they feel most comfortable. I remember wishing that I was in the class ahead of me because I was more in-tune with them and felt no connection with my own class. Who would have been harmed by my being part of a group that was 2 years older than me (I started school early) - even if I was studying things that my own class was studying.

    Technology will allow us to do that now, since Kahn Academy discovered how a couple of tutorials for his nephews posted on YouTube for convenience was so appreciated by so many who WANT on-line learning.

    I trust people to make the best decisions in that regard, and do not have as much disrespect for students as teachers do.
  • Aug 27 2012: Perhasps, that's a little simple. Once you have the code e.g. read at sixth grade level you can run wild.
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    Aug 27 2012: idealism is lovely but here are the three real issues that need to be sorted in education before there is space for a renaissance:

    1. cost - it's got to be cheap, sorry, we don't like spending money (even tax dollars) if there's no financial return.
    2. politics - for most political parties, education is just leverage to get votes/money.
    3. commerce - schools are a dependable market so we are starting to see a lot of companies targeting schools and either getting parents to buy their products in order to 'be in to win' some sports gear or else the govt funding is just being funneled straight into IT company coffers in order to pay for the huge expense of digital tech/comms.

    Get those three big elephants down to size and maybe we could approach education from an idealistic/altruistic angle..
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      Aug 27 2012: Valid point, to make it even possible for a mixed age model to be used these points would have to be addressed. However, for the purpose of experimentation, philanthropy still exists.
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    Aug 27 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM95HHI4gLk

    I believe Salman Kahn talks about mastery based advancement per student. He mentions that we all digest information at differnt speeds and comprehend / learn things if different ways. Kahn suggests that the faster students are free to help others grasp concepts that they may be experiencing problems with.
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    Aug 27 2012: Hi, Jake. There is a lot of experience now with mixed grade classrooms in some countries, including the United States. It can be a little hard on someone who is the lone 8th grader in a 6th grade class, but if there are a few older kids rather than just one, it often won't matter. My son was in a Latin class with many kids a year or two younger than he was. It was no problem. He will be in a different class this Fall with kids two and three years older. I expect there will be no problem there either.

    When I taught secondary school, I don't remember ever teaching a class that was not mixed grade. We had no problem. A smile comes to my face when I recall the hen-like pleasure my eighth graders had when the sixth graders left early to go to "their first dance."
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      Aug 27 2012: It is similar with Canada's system; there is a small amount of mixed grade classrooms in elementary and middle schools but in secondary school the practice is more common. I view these examples as a scaled down version of the possible fully mixed school model but I like what I see so far with some of the results and feedback. Fritzie, what is your opinion on scaling up from this level of the experiment and trying a more mixed model. For example, where all classes (not just some of the sciences and other subjects, but everything from language, to math, to science, to art) in school are taken at student pace, so if a student is excelling at a course in one semester he/she can take the following course the next semester rather than waiting until the next year. Or even having accelerated courses that a student could complete in a shorter frame of time. Do you think this would be a more efficient use of student time and more importantly do you think it would be an effective teaching model?
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        Aug 27 2012: At my son's high school and where my daughters went (public school), math, languages, science (except 9th grade biology) and art/music were all mixed. It works fine. No one cares about age differences.

        Both those high schools also have accelerated versions of courses or courses offering a more intensive option.

        I think these are time-tested approaches that serve students well.
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          Aug 27 2012: I'm glad to hear that. I think that model would serve my regional school system well. Now what do you think about extending this to younger ages, such as k through 8? Do you think the model would translate well or do you think it would disrupt social development?
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        Aug 27 2012: We already talked about how grades 6-8 often have some blending of ages as well as variants of courses that move at different paces.

        I am less familar with curriculum and instruction for lower grades, other than of course that there are lower grades programs that proceed in every subject at a faster pace and with greater depth. than a regular class for students who are ready for that. Lots of big city and suburban public schools in the US offer such options. Maybe in Canada also?

        But there should also be plenty of research on blending ages in lower grades for some subjects. Decades ago when I was in grade school in a very giant and diverse California school district, kids moved to reading classes based on reading level rather than age. Those were lets just say ancient times.

        So the idea is far from new! And there are certainly samples now of schools, more private perhaps than public, that blend ages in grade school.

        Usually the research in education is highly searchable, so if no one here has any specific references about the experience in blending ages at grade school, an internet search should help. One big clearinghouse for research articles in education is called ERIC. here is a start; http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/2009/RAND_WR685.pdf
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          Aug 27 2012: Thanks Fritzie I'll research the topic some more with that. Another follow up question to some of your previous responses, are you basing the effectiveness of these models on the number of students using the opportunity to take higher level or accelerated courses? Also, do you have any opinion on how sociologically these students may be affected by being in these classes?
        • Aug 29 2012: My elementary experience was similar to this. Many students at my school spoke little no English, making "no child left behind" an outrageous proposition. What happened was each student would periodically take tests on their reading levels and the library would help that student find books in their reading range. While we were all the same age, we got to experience literature at our own pace.
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        Aug 27 2012: Here is a page with lots of links for you: http://www.multiage-education.com/multiagelinks/index.html

        I have not done formal research myself on this. I am sharing anecdote only from my experience in education.

        In secondary grades, I think the variation in maturity within students of one age likely swamps the variation across grades. I have not noticed any issues, provided the teacher knows how to accomodate the differences that exist. For example, the first week of school, I would seat the younger kids in front to let them get comfortable rather than having them possibly intimidated to be in class with kids a foot taller than they were. That meant when they were new at school, sixies first sat with other sixies.

        For social effects at grade school, you will need to follow up research leads. I cannot help you.

        I was evaluating the effectiveness of mixing grades/ages only by how well students demonstrated they learned the material at hand and the sense of friendship and comraderie that developed in the classroom. I was not judging by the number of students who were in accelerated courses, though I do think that effective differentiation of instruction works best when there are accelerated courses for students who learn faster than average.