Are Multiage Classrooms Better for Children?

Advocates for multi-age education believe children flourish in environments where youngsters of different ages learn together in settings that feature collaboration, leadership, empathy, and social awareness along with academic achievement.  They think linearity is a fine principle for some types of manufacturing, but not for kids. So why are most U.S. schools organized by grades that restrict classes to children of the same age?

Dr. Sandra J. Stone, author, speaker, and former multi-age teacher, is Professor Emeritus at Northern Arizona University.  She founded the National Multiage Institute, an international leader in providing professional development for teachers and administrators from all over the world. She has worked extensively with schools and teachers, in the United States and Canada, and in countries such as Germany, Fiji, Italy, England, Ecuador, Turkey, Japan and Korea, supporting teachers to be strong advocates for multi-age education because it contributes to the success and well-being of every child.   She was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) to support teachers in multi-age education in Europe and Asia, working with them for almost ten years. She was invited by the Minister of Education to transform all schools in the Netherlands Antilles to multi-age education.

Dr. Stone has served as editor for the Journal of Research in Childhood Education as well as editor for several columns in the journal Childhood Education.  Among her many published works are journal articles such as The Multiage Classroom: What Research tells the Practitioner; Creating Contexts for Mixed-Age Learning; and Creating the Multiage Classroom: A Guide for Parents.  One of her best-selling books, now in its second edition, is Creating the Multiage Classroom (Sandra J. Stone, 2004, GoodYear Books).  This popular book discusses the philosophy of multi-age education, and presents the strategies, environment and assessment tools needed to create an effective multi-age classroom, which benefits children in a positive and powerful way. Dr. Stone’s recent book, Understanding Multiage Education (Stone/Burriss, 2019, Routledge), is designed to help educators, policymakers, and parents understand the philosophy and foundations of multi-age education and presents a compelling case for changing our current system of education to a child-centered multi-age system. Dr. Stone consults nationally and internationally.

Peter Barnard was a schoolteacher and the school principal of three contrasting secondary schools in the UK. He took an early interest in systems thinking which he applied as a Headteacher, questioning every directive and orthodoxy. Peter developed the research background on multi-age organization (often called vertical tutoring) and as multi-age organization became popular, he started an international consultancy, training schools and others in organizational change and transformation. Peter has returned to university to learn more about what he discovered through research. He writes books and papers and spends his summers growing fruit and vegetables

Peter’s latest book is Socially Collaborative Schools: The heretic’s guide to mixed-age tutor groups, system design, and the goal of goodness. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.  Additional papers on VT are available from at

His Catalyzing Story  on a multi-age educational experiment is available at

Prucia Buscell, longtime Plexus Catalyst, writer and editor, was formerly communications director at Plexus Institute and has written about complexity-inspired processes in health care, education and other fields.  She is a former newspaper reporter and a freelance writer and editor. Prucia is a frequent contributor and Catalyzing Conversation moderator. Subscribe to our newsletter or contact Prucia at  to contribute content or to become involved in events.

Join a Catalyzing Conversation on
Multi-age Education

Event Details

When: Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Time: Noon-1 PM ET, 11 AM-noon-CT, 10 -11 AM MT, 9-10 AM PT

Where: Virtual on Zoom