The landscape of teaching multi-age classes in a New Zealand secondary school

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Garbutt, Jan
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Applied Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Mane, Jo
Reinders, Hayo
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
secondary schools
multi-level classes
multi-age classes
design and visual communication (DVC)
secondary students
student centred learning
Garbutt, J. (2019). The landscape of teaching multi-age classes in a New Zealand secondary school. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Practice). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1. What is the philosophy behind multi-age teaching at secondary school level? 2. What are the challenges and advantages for teachers and students in a multiage class? 3. What strategies enable the effective use of multi-age classes? ABSTRACT: Multi-age education is characterised by intentional grouping of students from more than one year level. These types of classes frequently occur in primary schools, and this is where the majority of the research is focussed. Secondary schools specialist subjects are beginning to adopt a multi-age approach, but there is little research into the use of multi-age classes as a method of teaching at this level. This study explores the landscape of multi-age teaching in secondary school design and visual communication classes, from the perspectives of both teachers and students. A qualitative methodology was employed for this research and used data gathering methods of semi-structured interviews and a focus group. Five semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers who had experience teaching multi-age classes in a specialist subject area at secondary school level. A focus group was conducted with a group of students who were part of a multi-age DVC class to discuss their experiences in this type of class. The key findings of this study highlight the benefits and challenges of multi-age teaching in a secondary school specialist subject context. The findings were established through the students’ and teachers’ views and opinions of their personal experiences of being part of a multi-age class. The findings also explored advice that experienced teachers would give to teachers who were new to multi-age teaching. The recommendations of the study focus on advice for teachers who are interested in implementing a multi-age DVC classroom. The advice covers the areas of class size, planning, student–teacher relationships, and the teacher as a teacher.
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