I am currently reading a book called What’s Math Got To Do With It? by Jo Boaler. In chapter five, Boaler discusses whether or not students should be grouped together based on prior attainment. In this post I will briefly discuss a few of the points Boaler makes, then I look forward to receiving feedback to hear what everyone else has to say on the issue!
Many parents with high-achieving students support ability grouping, because they believe it will benefit their child to work with similar children. However, countries such as Japan and Finland reject ability grouping, and these are two of the most successful countries, whereas America, a country that employs ability grouping, is one of the least successful.
Some have argued that we begin to sort students at such an early stage and tend to focus on higher-achieving students. However, this approach has serious flaws, such as the difficulty of identifying students correctly when children develop at a different rates.
Researchers have found that one of the most important factors in school success is what they call “opportunity to learn.” If students are not given opportunities to learn challenging work, then they will not achieve at high levels. Making decisions to group students early in life can affect their long-term achievements. When students know that teachers do not expect much from them, they have no desire to do well.
When students are put into mixed-ability classes, students are able to help one another. Students who are struggling have the opportunity to receive help from many of their classmates, and the students who understand are able to help these students. When a student understands a concept and is able to explain it to their classmate, this can greatly widen their understanding of the concept.
Ability-grouping is a very interesting topic to think about given it is one of the most controversial topics in education. I would love to hear your opinion, please comment below!