In many communities in Manitoba multilevel classrooms are common, and span from two to nine grades in the same classroom. Some multilevel classes are formed of necessity. Other communities establish multilevel classrooms because of the advantages they offer learners, teachers, and parents. Research says that students should be in a multilevel classroom for at least two years to take advantage of the benefits.
Students in multilevel classrooms are assessed according to provincial learning outcomes. This means that they are guided to set learning goals that meet their learning needs, as well as curriculum outcomes. Teachers guide students along their learning journey as they work in groups and individually to study a broad topic that addresses many subjects. Students work at their own level on different projects about the same topic. They become independent together as they grow in confidence, gain a deeper understanding from a wide age-range of learners, and develop skills and strategies. Grades become benchmarks for final assessments at the end of a unit, term, or school year.
Teachers in multilevel classrooms design a range of learning experiences so that students at every developmental level are challenged. Because different themes rotate over the years, there is little or no repetition of content. Experienced students generally are independent learners and ready for more complex tasks. Furthermore, in their last year(s) in multilevel programming, students gain valuable experience in exercising leadership and acting as mentors.
Older students become role models for younger classmates in multilevel classrooms. This may provide opportunities to practise learning or to present a project with an appreciative younger audience. These opportunities are valuable and enriching learning experiences as older students grow in knowledge and confidence, and become "teachers," too.
The multilevel classroom may offer individuals time to learn to understand each other and work out any difficulties that may occur. Within a learning community, conflicts are often resolved as they are in everyday living because of the respect and values that develop over time. In some cases, both parties may need to agree on a plan to accept and respect differences.
In the multilevel classroom, students establish valuable friendships with others of the same age as well as with younger students. The fluid student makeup of a multilevel classroom is sometimes an advantage. Rather than being limited to the same peer group for several years, students may gradually be introduced to new classmates.
Research shows that students in multilevel classrooms tend to be more socially adept and more positive about school. These traits can equip students in dealing with the challenge of moving to a new classroom.
The learning of all Manitoba students is based on the same learning outcomes, regardless of whether they are in a multilevel or single-grade classroom. So students may explore different topics from one classroom to another, but the learning outcomes are the same for everyone. Students who move from multilevel classrooms to a new school usually take with them portfolios, learning logs, and goal sheets, which provide powerful evidence of what they know and can do.