Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ability Grouping Redux, Why It Works for ALL Kids

Recent studies have shown that teaching all children at their own pace (clustering at all ability levels) was the most beneficial, not just for gifted kids. An NT kid is going to learn less if there some smartypants with his hand always up and the right answer before he/she has time to think, or there's some gifted kid in his project group that just takes over and does the project.

"According to the NAGC, the idea that keeping gifted children in the heterogeneous classroom raises all boats, so to speak, is a myth.

"Myth: Gifted Students Make Everyone Else In The Class Smarter By Providing A Role Model Or A Challenge.

Truth: Actually, average or below-average students do not look to the gifted students in the class as role models. They are more likely to model their behavior on those who have similar capabilities and are coping well in school. Seeing a student at a similar performance level succeed motivates students because it adds to their own sense of ability; watching or relying on someone who is expected to succeed does little to increase a struggling student’s sense of self- confidence. [2]Similarly, gifted students benefit from interactions with peers at similar performance levels."

For a summary of research on the topic of ability grouping, please see

Some of the main points from this literature:

Academically, high achieving or gifted and talented students achieve more and learn more when they are grouped with other high achieving students, homogeneous grouping, as opposed to placed in mixed ability groups, heterogeneous grouping, (e.g., Cornell, Delcourt, Goldberg, & Bland, 1992; Gamoran & Berends, 1987; Gentry & Owens, 1999; Gossen, 1996; Goldring, 1990; Kerckhoff, 1986; Kulik & Kulik, 1991, 1992; Rogers, 1991, 1993; Shields, 1995; Slavin, 1987).

Ability grouping has even stronger positive effects on achievement for high-ability black and Hispanic youth (Page & Keith, 1996).

The performance of the remaining students in heterogeneous classes does not suffer when gifted students are removed from the classroom (e.g., Kulik & Kulik, 1982; 1987; Page & Keith, 1996; Shields, 1995). In fact, some research suggests that lower achieving students actually have increased achievement when gifted students are removed from the regular classroom (e.g., Gentry & Owen; 1999; Kennedy, 1992; Natriello, Pallas, & Alexander, 1989)"

Also, check out this fascinating blog entry from Laura Vanderkam's Gifted Exchange", where she writes: "... I'm always interested to see studies that examine whether tracking has a negative effect on children assigned to the "slower" track. The answer, according to one recent study of Kenyan school children, is a resounding no. In fact, not only do students in both higher and lower tracks do better on tests than their peers in heterogeneous classrooms, the teachers are actually more likely to show up for class."

1 comment:

Adso of Melk said...

THANK YOU for getting this information out there. Maybe if more people keep repeating and repeating it, others will come to "just know" that heterogeneous grouping works. Really, anyone who's ever *had* gifted kids in a class knows that "role model" is not what they become: it's more like "teacher's pet" -- or worse, "the kid you cheat from." Neither of those roles really gets you a date to the prom, KWIM?

Thanks again!