The questions of whether, when, and how to group students according to academic ability represent some of the most difficult and frustrating challenges facing educators today.
The questions of whether, when, and how to group students according to academic ability represent some of the most difficult and frustrating challenges facing educators today. Seeking to help answer these questions, researchers have applied new techniques of research review to this subject.
These reviews, their techniques, and their findings are important to educators who need to make decisions about grouping that are based on accurate knowledge of its effects. This article provides both a synthesis and a critique of these research reviews of ability grouping with the aim of clarifying for practitioners how these synthetic techniques affect the results; what research questions are being asked and answered; and what is and isn't established by the research.
Understanding the Methodology Both the meta-analytic and best-evidence techniques of research review treat all included studies as equally valid. Although the reviewers set criteria for omitting clearly inadequate studies, they give all other studies the same weight, without regard for their relative quality.
The best-evidence synthesis is more selective in its criteria, but then becomes vulnerable to the charge of hand-picking the evidence.
For a description of these two methods of research review and the more traditional narrative review, see the sidebar on p. A methodological problem that applies primarily to the gifted the top percent and to a lesser degree to high-ability students the top 33 percent is the use of standardized test scores.
On most studies included in the meta-analyses, these are the main measure of achievement. The scores of gifted students usually approach the ceiling on standardized achievement tests, making it very difficult to show significant academic improvement on their part.
Certainly, at the minimum, the degree of academic improvement in the studies would be much greater if it weren't masked by the ceiling effect of standardized testing. This problem stemming from the inclusion of high-ability students may affect all the major studies.
However, I have had difficulty obtaining exact data on the percentage of studies included in the analyses that use standardized test scores, James Kulik personal communication reports that the majority of studies in his meta-analyses used such data.
In his study, Slavin reported personal communication that almost all studies where effect size was computed used standardized data raw scores, grade equivalents, or standard scores. In both the meta-analyses and the best-evidence synthesis, some forms of grouping were found to improve the academic performance of gifted children, and it is likely that the real benefits were greater than could be shown by the method of measurement.
In a more recent synthesis of grouping in secondary schools, Slavin raises an additional problem concerning the use of standardized testing as a measurement of the effects of grouping on student achievement, Discussing the lack of positive evidence for grouping in his study, Slavin says, "One possibility is that the standardized tests used in virtually all the studies discussed in this review are too insensitive to pick up effects of grouping.
Another is the criticism commonly raised by teachers, particularly at the secondary level, that the tests don't evaluate what they are teaching. One possible check on this difficulty is to compare student progress in ability-grouped vs. These are less commonly used in research because they are not comparable across teachers and subject areas.
In fact, in both Slavin's elementary synthesis and secondary synthesisone of the criteria for inclusion of a research study was that "teacher-made tests, used in a very small number of studies, were accepted only if there was evidence that they were designed to assess objectives taught in all classes" Slavin Clearly, if ability grouping is being used effectively, the objectives should vary among the different classes.
Therefore, testing for the same probably minimal objectives will not permit any benefits of ability grouping in average- or high-ability classes to be demonstrated.teacher education, and teacher experience, indicates that both types of schools tailor resources to the class ability level in similar ways, for instance by putting low-achieving students into smaller classes.
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Today, less developed countries struggle with overpopulation while many. Aug 25, · Ability Grouping in Education Posted on August 25, August 25, Categories Uncategorized What a week it has been in the world of UK education; GCSE results out today suffer largest ever year on year decline, down to their lowest level since , to .
Education and parenting articles offer expert tips and information on raising kids. Read educational articles, parenting articles, & more. Ability grouping is a greatly debated area in the field of education.
Opponents to the practice believe ability grouping is detrimental to learning and student self-esteem, but ability grouping, specifically within-class ability grouping, can be very effective in teaching.