Research shows that mixed-age groups benefit children at every level: socially, intellectually and emotionally. By removing the stress of adjusting to multiple transitions throughout their early education, mixed-age classrooms allow children to focus all of their attention on the job of learning. This continuity is key to the success of the collaborative, community-based learning that is central to Reggio-inspired programs.
In step with the “real world,” a mixed-age group environment is a very normal and natural setting. It allows children to interact with peers who are at various ages, learning levels and skill sets. It provides them the opportunity to interact with a myriad of behaviors and continuously practice cooperative work and play skills, including sharing, taking turns, expressing feelings, and being helpful to others. It also lets projects develop more meaning over time and enriches the classroom environment through valuing the different perspectives of the children.
Where single-age classrooms may create enormous normative pressures on the children and the teacher to expect all students to possess the same knowledge and skills, mixed-age classrooms minimize the effect of these expectations and engender an acceptance of children learning at their own pace. Additionally, each child has the opportunity to play various roles such as the youngest, middle, or oldest of the group, and therefore has exposure to different learning experiences. Younger children are exposed to more complex play and language, while older children have an opportunity to accept, nurture and teach.