in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
year, John Goodlad released ‘The Nongraded Elementary School’. This
pioneering book provoked waves of debate through out education circles as
Goodlad’s critiques challenged the very foundation of the education system and
helped provoke new dialogue about alternative structures.
‘The Nongraded Elementary School’, Goodlad identified key flaws in the
graded education system and proposes an alternative system of organization to
counter these flaws. Goodlad suggests in his book that the graded system
classifies, measures and promotes children according to a grading structure that
does not take into consideration learners’ individuality or uniqueness (Sirotnik,
1999). After the book’s release, nongraded schools began surfacing through out
the States and Canada and more researchers began exploring the viability of
current and alternative structures of education. Over his career, John Goodlad
has authored, co-authored and edited over 30 books. Among them are the now
classic A Place Called School (1984), Educational
Renewal (1994) and In Praise of
In the Non Graded Elementary School, Goodlad argued that the rigid graded
education system is not designed to accommodate the realities of child
development, including children’s abilities to develop skills at different
rates to different levels. (Goodlad, 1963) Goodlad suggests that one limiting
assumption embedded in the graded school structure is that children’s
achievement patterns in different areas of study are going to be the same.
However, in reality, most children progress quickly in certain subject areas
while struggling in others. As Goodlad’s research demonstrates, it is very
common to have a child in grade two have literacy skills of a grade three but
math skills of a grade two. With a graded structure that assumes that a child
will progress through each area of study at the same pace, a child’s is given
no freedom to develop at the pace that is optimal for his/her needs.
second assumption in a graded system is that all students will learn the
necessary skills within a year and then be ready to progress to the next
predetermined level. In graded systems, students are all placed on an identical
learning cycle with no room for diversity of learning patterns. (Kidd, 1973)
Goodlad recognizes that under the graded system, the only options teachers have
to adjust for students’ different learning capacities and rates are to either
promote or hold back a student. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that
both early promotion and nonpromotion of a student are not strategies conducive
for learning and development (Goodlad, 1963).
response to the flaws of a graded system, in ‘ Non-Graded Elementary School’
Goodlad suggested a nongraded system of organization that facilitates
“continual pupil progress” and ensures that each student moves forward as
quickly and smoothly as necessary. The nongraded structure assumes that a
child’s development is irregular and is not unified and that their capacities
and pace of learning in different areas will vary from person to person.
Students are given the flexibility to move at a pace that fosters optimal and
continuous learning instead of being promoted once a year. The implications for
teachers and educators is that they can now introduce creative teaching
practices that are in line with the pupils’ realities.
elements of Goodlad’s nongraded system include a longitudinal concept of
curriculum and planned flexibility in grouping. Firstly, curriculum is centered
on continual and sequential learning, with behavior and content running
vertically through the curriculum (Goodlad, 1963). Longitudinal learning
emphasizes that all skills learned are in fact base components of more complex
skills to be learned in the future (Goodlad, 1963). Secondly, grouping is
organized around achievement groups, interest groups, work-study groups or a
combination of the three with some groupings being heterogeneous in skills
(social sciences) and other groups being homogeneous in skill levels (reading).
In nongraded classes, it is common to have students of different ages
participating in one lesson depending on where their skills levels. Teachers are
therefore freed from teaching predetermined graded content within specific time
intervals and can instead adjust their lessons to ensure that students grasp
concepts, skills and content over their entire educational journey.
keeping and evaluation of students at nongraded schools are elements that have
been debated since the release of Goodlad’s book. The challenge lies in
reporting a child’s progress in the broader context of his/her own
development. Some nongraded schools give progress reports to parents that assess
the levels of accomplishment attained by a student. (Hilson, 1969) These records
must be suited to capture how each child is individually moving along in their
evaluating nongraded systems, educators have noted certain specific
disadvantages to the system. The implications of teaching to the different
levels of development among the students means that teachers require more
preparation time and also more knowledge about child development and integrated
curriculum (Pavan, 1992). Teachers in nongraded schools do not have the luxury
of clearly laid on textbooks and curriculum and instead are constantly adjusting
their lessons and often using a myriad of more expensive supplementary books.
Reinventing their curriculum and strategies for each set of new learners often
cause teachers to burnout much faster than teachers in graded schools (Pavan,
warned in his writings that schools will confront certain challenges when
implementing a nongraded system of organization. He cautioned us that schools
should not implement this system if they are afraid of ripples of opposition and
confusion from internally or from parents and the community. While nongrading is
only a system of organization, its adoption will challenge many elements of a
school, including processes, language, concepts and philosophies. Goodlad also
points out that many educators are operationally oriented, and will need to
first grasp the conceptual idea of nongraded systems before worrying about the
day-to-day implications of the system (Kidd, 1973). The nongraded system is
reliant on teamwork from the teachers and is therefore should not be implemented
in only one classroom of a school. Typically, the system requires three years of
operation and the faculty’s engagement and support for success.
nongraded education, also called mixed-age grouping, heterogeneous grouping and
open education, remains an alternative structure for many schools in the States
and Canada. Many of the experimental programs launched after Goodlad’s book in
the 60s and 70s ended up failing due to inadequate understanding, lack of
administrative and community support and ineffective implementation (Gaustad,
1992). However, research about the potential and effectiveness of nongraded
schools has continued since Goodlad’s initial research, with tests continuing
to demonstrate that nongraded students perform as well or better than graded
students on achievement tests and that nongraded schools are better for
students’ mental health and school attitudes (Pavan, 1992). With more emphasis
today on the individual learner and increased student diversity within
classrooms, the nongraded system may increasingly be viewed as an acceptable
alternative to graded structures.
the publication of The Nongraded School,
Goodlad has continued to pursue his studies, and became a leader in education
renewal and reform. By 1984 he published A
Place Called School, one of the largest on-scene investigation of American
classrooms. After this study, Goodlad concluded that a complete redesign of the
schools including curriculum, teaching quality, relations and instructional
methods must be undertaken (Tell, 1999). This book later won the Outstanding
Book of the Year Award from the American Educational Research Association and
the Distinguished Book of the Year Award from Kappa Delta Pi. In one of his more
recent books, In Praise of Education
(1997), Goodlad argues that education is a right in a democratic society and
that education is integral to developing democratic character. Goodlad’s
theories and ideas have left a strong impact on the educational profession, and
his proposals will continue to challenge the current educational systems.
Joan. (1992). Nongraded Primary Education. ERIC Digest, Number 74.
John I. (1963). The Nongraded Elementary School. New York. Harcourt, Brace &
Dr. Maurie. (1969). Twenty Hillson Letters - The Nongraded Elementary School.
Canada. Science Research Associates.
Ronald & Charles C. Whal. (1973). Speaking on Nongrading.United States of
America. McGrawth Books Co.
Barbara Nelson. (1992, October). The Benefits of Nongraded Schools. Educational
Leadership. Volume 50, Number 2.
Kenneth A. & Roger Soder. (1999). The Beat of a Different Drummer. New York.
Peter Lang Publishing.
Carol. (1999). Renewing the Profession of Teaching: A Conversation with John
Goodlad. Educational Leadership. Volume 56, Number 8.
by Amy Diniz (OISE/UT),
Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/ (date accessed).
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