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Learning Theories that Support Multiage Education

The learning theories we studied in college along with our experiences as educators have helped us define our own philosophies as teachers.  If you are an experienced educator it is good to revisit the learning theories that are at the base of everything you do.  If you are just beginning your career, then the learning theories will help you define which educational practices will best help you help your students. 

There are a number of theories that support multiage practices and there are also some that don't.  Listed below are some of the major learning theories that support multiage educational practices along with links to some great web sites that provide more information about each of them.


Jean Piaget's Cognitive-Development Theory gives us the background for developmentally appropriate practices.  The idea that children's thinking is qualitatively different than adults comes from Piaget.  His theory also shows us that children need to construct or reconstruct knowledge in order to learn and that they also need rich opportunities to interact with the physical world and with their peers.

Jean Piaget - Intellectual Development
http://www.sk.com.br/sk-piage.html

How Do People Learn? Piaget's Development Theory
http://www.funderstanding.com/piaget.cfm

Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget)
http://www.gwu.edu/~tip/piaget.html

Jean Piaget's Theory of Development
http://facultyweb.cortland.edu/~ANDERSMD/PIAGET/PIAGET.HTML

Lev Vygotsky's Sociohistorical Theory of Psychological Development shows us the importance of language and social interaction for cognitive growth.  His ideas of the zone of proximal development and scaffolding are at the heart of multiage practices.

Social Development Theory (L. Vygotsky)
http://www.gwu.edu/~tip/vygotsky.html

Cognitive Science: Links for Lev Vygotsky
http://www.cudenver.edu/~mryder/itc_data/cogsci.html#vygotsky

Beyond the Individual-Social Antimony in Discussions of Piaget and Vygotsky
http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/VygColeWer.html

Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Learning Theory is important in that it shows us that much of learning happens through the observation of models, a staple of multiage classrooms.  Intertwined in the theory is also the concept of self-efficacy.
Social Learning Theory (A. Bandura)
http://www.gwu.edu/~tip/bandura.html
Bernard Weiner's Attribution Theory helps us understand how students are motivated internally and how we as educators can help students learn because they want to learn.
Attribution Theory in Action
http://www.as.wvu.edu/~sbb/comm221/chapters/attrib.htm

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