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Student playmate choice and student retention rate in a multiage program

1 August 1998


This research examined four aspects of a multiage elementary program. The four questions were: 1) Do children of different ages play together at school outside of the classroom? 2)Where and when do students of different ages play together? 3) Are low performing students held back? and 4) What happens to students who meet the profile of students held back at other schools in the district? These questions arose from two observations that I made while reading research on the subject of multiage education .. The first observation I made was that though many proponents of multiage programs cited the ability to learn from interacting with. differently aged peers and progress at a student's own rate as the chief benefits of this type of program, most of the research examined student achievement when compared with a standard graded program. I chose to examine whether students do choose to play and interact with. their differently aged peers during free time. The second observation was a common thread through much of the research that student retention is inappropriate in most instances and should not be necessary in a multiage program where students are allowed to progress at their own rates. I looked to see if this was true in the study school. I conducted my research at a multiage alternative elementary school in Western Oregon. Data was collected through observation of students and their individual playmate choices during recess. Data was also collected through an interview with the building administrator on the topic of student retention. After collecting and organizing the data, the results suggested that the degree to which students choose to play with differently aged peers is reflective of how much time they spend actively engaged in learning activities with them. It does not appear that merely sharing a common space encourages interage playing. In the case of student retention I found that there was no blanket policy against holding students back, but that it was an infrequent occurrence that is decided on a case by case basis.


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