Action Plan

K-12 Innovations Work Plan

The Multi-Grade Approach to Learning

Submitted by the  BC Rural & Multi-grade Teachers’ Association

Rationale:       Hattie identifies multi-grade learning as an educational “distraction” in that it yields only a minimally positive effect compared to the more common experience of single-grade education (Hattie, 2015). But teacher philosophy and instructional practices may not have been controlled for in the meta-analysis, as very little is known about what actually happens in the teaching and learning that occurs in multi-grade classrooms (Mulryan-Kyne, 2007).  Would Hattie’s results be different if they focused on classrooms where teachers do demonstrate pedagogies that are well-suited to a multi-grade learning environment?

Goals: 1) to identify the elements of multi-grade pedagogy (including philosophy, strategies for planning, teaching, and assessment) that produce the greatest student gain in multi-grade configurations

2) to gather quantitative evidence of the effect of multi-grade pedagogy and configurations on student achievement


  1. Personal pedagogies, based on the long-term experiences and reflections of diverse and successful multi-grade teachers, can help identify the elements of an effective approach to multi-grade teaching and learning.
  2. The experiences and reflections of past multi-grade students would be compelling. How well-served did they feel by their multi-grade learning experience at the time it was occurring?  How well did it prepare them for future academic success? For social-emotional well-being?  For life-long learning?


  1. Low enrollment numbers in each grade of a multi-grade class mean data is often masked in public reports, and may be difficult to obtain.  Small samples are easily influenced by individual results, therefore, a large number of individual scores will need to be compiled, perhaps from multiple years as well as multiple schools.
  2. As our project will involve multi-grade schools from across the province, communication between researchers and teachers will take effort and time, and may need to include a variety of formats as internet access is not always robust or reliable in rural areas of BC.
  3. Multi-grade teachers, while motivated to engage in professional learning, may be limited in the time they can devote to this research. Efforts should be made to provide optional ways for teachers to contribute.

Possible quantitative data to consider: academic performance of students in multi-grade education, academic performance of students once they leave multi-grade learning environments, graduation rates.

Possible qualitative data to consider: anecdotal experiences of teachers, students, and parents of children in multi-grade classes regarding engagement in learning, competencies, knowledge and skill levels, as well as those of teachers who receive students from a multi-grade learning environment.


Hattie, John (2015).  What Doesn’t Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction. Available at

Mulryan-Kyne, Catherine (2004). Teaching and Learning in Multigrade Classrooms: What Teachers Say.  The Irish Journal of Education / Iris Eireannach an Oideachais. Vol. 35 (2004), pp. 5-19 Available at



K-12 Innovation Partnership:
Developing Innovative Practices

Description of the innovation(s) you are planning to develop:

Multi-grade education is often dismissed as second-best; a make-do situation when and where single grades are not possible.  Yet for many rural children in our province, multi-grade environments successfully and sustainably provide a rich, personalized approach to learning.

The intent of our project is to invite researchers into a variety of existing multi-grade practices across the province to answer three questions:

  1. What are the common elements of effective multi-grade teaching and learning?
  2. Are there systemic changes that can be made to further enhance this type of learning?
  3. Could student engagement and  achievement be improved in single-grade schools by intentionally creating multi-grade learning environments and developing multi-grade pedagogies?

What are the problems or opportunities the innovation(s) are seeking to address:

In your school?

  • Student engagement
  • Personalizing educational choices
  • Student achievement
  • Social-emotional development
  • Community and Family involvement
  • The effect of students both having and being role models
  • Thinking of curriculum as less grade-specific and more of a continuum
  • Long-term relationships (investment and accountability) between parents, students, & teachers

In your District and the Province?

        As above

What are the new/different outcomes for students you hope to achieve?

  • Increased engagement, due in part to learning from one another as well as the teacher; creating zones of proximal development between students.
  • In a multi-grade classroom, differentiation is the norm. Learning is more personalized and there is less negative competition; children are motivated to compete against their own personal bests.
  • Assessment will be on a continuum and not be grade-specific; achievement will be measured by student gain.