New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Mixed-age Chemistry Classes: Conception and Realization of Inter-Grade Experimentation Sets in the Context of the Reform Pedagogy According to Maria Montessori

Marcel Simon, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Chemistry Education Department (Germany)

Timm Wilke, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute for Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Chemistry Education Department, 07743 Jena (Germany)


In the course of the restructuring of the German school landscape over the past 15 years, concepts have become established which, on the one hand, require a different approach to the heterogeneity of the student body and, on the other hand, demand the teaching of independent and more complex learning and work. A model that integrates all these pedagogical elements is represented by the approach of mixed-age teaching, which is already being implemented primarily in the primary level of the German education system. ‘Mixed-age is an alternative form of school organization in which students are not grouped into classes by year, but rather different age groups are integrated into one class.’ [1]

The environment of the mixed-age learning group represents one of the core elements of Maria Montessori's reform pedagogy. Here, students of three grades learn together, according to the ‘principle of naturalness’ postulated by her [2]. Another essential feature of this pedagogical approach is the special learning materials provided by the teachers. These are geared to the students' self-acting, in the spirit of Montessori: ‘Help me to do it myself!’

The primary objective of this work included the conception and realization of learning and experimentation sets for mixed-age teaching in chemistry, which should be equally suitable for students in grades 7, 8 and 9. With this in mind, an exemplary set on the subject of ‘Acids & Bases’ was created. The experiments contained in the set are intended to meet the requirements of mixed-age learning (especially content fit for all three grades) as well as the essential aspects of reform pedagogy according to Maria Montessori, e.g., internal differentiation, stimulating and self-explanatory material.

For this purpose, theory-based criteria, among others according to Montessori and Laging [4], for the design of age-heterogeneous experiments were developed, which were supplemented by criteria from qualitative interviews with teachers and students. The experimental design was tested at the Montessori School Jena. The final step was a qualitative survey of the participating students. The project provided an insight into the suitability of the materials for age heterogeneous learning contexts, as well as for the exposition of important design criteria.


reform pedagogy, Maria Montessori, mixed-age classrooms


[1] P. Kuhl, A. Felbrich & H. Pant: ‘Die Jahrgangsmischung auf dem Prüfstand: Effekte jahrgangsübergreifenden Lernens auf Kompetenzen und sozio-emotio-nales Wohlbefinden von Grundschülerinnen und Grundschülern‘, 2017, 229-324.

[2] P. Oswald & G. Schulze-Benesch: ‘Die Entdeckung des Kindes‘, 1994, 97.

[3] R. Laging et al.: ‘Grundgedanken der Schulpädagogik (Band 28) – Altersgemischtes Lernen in der Schule‘, 2003


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