Archived Information

Tried and True: September 1997--The information in this publication was current as of September 1997, and has not been updated since. Some services described in the publication may no longer be available.
[Teacher Professional Development]

Improving Multigrade Classroom Instruction in Small, Rural Schools

A Series of Workshops for Educators Interested
in Multigraded Classroom Instruction

Developed and tested by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL)

What is the idea behind Improving Multigrade Classroom Instruction in Small, Rural Schools?

This program was created for teachers and administrators in rural areas who have an identified interest in or need for multigraded classroom instruction. It is a series of workshops designed around the resource handbook The Multigrade Classroom: A Resource Handbook for Small, Rural Schools developed by Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL). Each workshop can be tailored to a given site and relies heavily upon activities that model actual classroom practices of multigrade teachers. The following workshop topics are available:

The material and training are designed for multigrade and multi-age classrooms from any combination of 2 to 13 grades within a single classroom setting.

What does research say about how this idea can help teaching and learning?

Over 105 separate research articles and reports were used in the development of The Multigrade Handbook. The first chapter of the handbook reviews research that was specifically focused on multigrade organization and instruction and has been published in Research Education (Fall 1990 and Winter 1991). Subsequently, chapter 1 was published in The Journal of Research in Rural Education. The remaining chapters of the handbook draw heavily on research on effective instruction and learning cognition. Each chapter has a reference and resource section for those desiring additional information.

Research evidence indicates that multigrade instruction has a significant positive impact on student attitudes and tends to enhance achievement outcomes under positive implementation conditions.

How was program tested?

Improving Multigrade Classroom Instruction in Small, Rural Schools was tested in 16 different settings, under varying goals and circumstances. Participants in the workshops included individuals from throughout the United States, as well as educators from other countries. The focus of each workshop was a little different, because the diversity of participants and the specificity of their classroom needs varied.

Where implementation was carefully planned, multigrade organization has been successful. A national network of multigrade educators has been formed.

What communities and states are using this program?

This program has been or is currently being used in virtually every state in the union and in Guam, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Indonesia, Canada, and Jamaica. Many different education stakeholders, including teachers, principals, board members, state department of education personnel, and university faculty have taken part in the workshops.

What's involved in using this program in my school and community?

Resources required to implement this program include the following:

Beyond these considerations, it is important to note that implementing this practice is both complex and time-consuming. The following steps have been successful in the past:

  1. A request is made for information or service to meet a need.

  2. The need is examined from as many perspectives as possible--community, administrative, teacher, and student.

  3. A treatment or strategy is developed and shared with those requesting the service, and an agreement is reached.

  4. That treatment or strategy is implemented.

Provision for follow-up is highly recommended, either at the level of the provider (NWREL) or at the local level. Time for these steps varies depending upon the nature of the request.

The Multigrade Handbook and The Multigrade Training Guide are the primary materials used, with numerous variations having been developed for specific sites and applications. A network of schools and classrooms (multigraded, ungraded, and multi-aged) can also be accessed. In addition, those multigrade teachers who participated in the development of The Multigrade Handbook may also be resources.

Costs associated with implementing this program vary, depending on the components of the program being used.


Joyce Ley, Director
Rural Education Program
101 S.W. Main Street, Suite 500
Portland, OR 97204
Phone: (800) 547-6339, ext. 553
Fax: (503) 275-9553
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