Target 14 Explained: Vertically and horizontally flexible & variable learner groups

This post is part of a series designed to help parents, teachers, students, and the global community understand the Targets associated with WAB's journey to achieve the Future of Learning.

Target 14: Vertically and horizontally flexible & variable learner groups

This is one of those Targets that, on first read, might mean nothing at all to non-educators. "Teacher speak" can be quite confusing, just like medical speak, financial speak, and other industries full of jargon.

So, let's break it down.

The basic meaning of Target 14 is this: Student groups should be formed and re-formed based on the learning needs, interests, opportunities, and passions of each individual student. The traditional model most frequently used around the world separates students by age, a model we know is not the most effective way for children to learn. (Read more about the challenges and benefits of multi-age classrooms here.)

In the phrasing of the Target, "vertical" refers to grouping students based on their age, while "horizontal" refers to grouping students based on subjects.

We want to move away from that model and have "variable" learner groups that are flexible and can be adjusted as teachers, mentors, and parents recognize individual student's strengths, challenges, and passions.

Grouping students by their learning needs or interests allows for much greater teacher and mentor support. At the same time, these groups should not necessarily be fixed for an entire year, because we know that we can help students learn better by putting them into new groups and new roles.

For example, at times it is good to group several like-minded mathematicians into the same classroom, as their interest, passion, and easy comprehension of the subject allows for an efficient learning environment. However, it is also beneficial for these students to be grouped with students who may not be as strong in mathematics, as they can act as leaders or even peer teachers. We know that acting as a teacher can enhance that learner's abilities, as well. They can learn the material in more depth, but also develop leadership, communication, and empathy.

Flexibility in learning groups allows teachers to move kids around if they need to. As teachers see students developing or struggling in certain areas, they can regroup them.

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