Our discussion for this week is ‘Ability Group.’ Ability grouping is placing students in groups, predetermined and assigned by the teacher, to reach specific goals in the subject being studied. The rubric or guidelines are given and discussed by the teacher so each group clearly understands the expectations before the exercise begins. As discussed previously, this is the ‘Focused’ part of the instruction.
Before I go any further I do want to state that there are some lessons and opportunities where the entire class is being taught the same information at the same time. This is very beneficial as it adds to the ‘background knowledge’ each student can build on over a two year period with this teacher.
Now that more diversity will be in each class, small groups (2 or 3) students can be very exciting. ‘Developmental Grouping’ is one concept that has students of varying abilities grouped together where the advanced student assists the struggling student better understand the concept through the assignment.
This grouping across abilities is very common in multiage classes and extremely beneficial for students explaining the concept as well as the student learning the concept. This type of sharing out is one of the strongest elements in a multiage setting. Academic growth is accelerated and again adds to the background knowledge of every student.
Pairs is used when students work with one other student. In this setting both students must be very active to accomplish goals. This is a case where ‘two heads are better than one.’ With pairs students actually benefit from discussions with the other student gaining the other’s perspective and understanding.
Triads are as beneficial as students in pairs, and depending on the age, lends itself to more input from the student adding more options for students to consider and discuss.
Triads or bigger lends itself to more distractions. As discussed in previous articles, the teacher’s role in these settings is called ‘Guided Instruction.’ The teacher constantly moves about the room keeping the groups on task, eliminating lost time. With established time limits students must be aware of the targets the teacher has established for that class.
Individuals working alone are part of ‘Ability Grouping.’ With direction from the teacher, students would be allowed to study independently. Independent learning is equally valued in multiage settings. Students would be allowed to work on assignments not fully understood or spend time in deeper research guided by materials presented in class. A student’s curiosity can now be encouraged and celebrated.
In conclusion, when you walked into any of our classrooms you would witness these concepts taking place on a daily basis. However, topics that would be of tremendous benefit for student groups would have to be eliminated based on class size. This obviously limits student participation on deeper levels. The big difference moving forward is the increase in class size allowing for more diversity in group settings. Again with teacher preparedness, combinations of groups can be established opening a myriad of teaching and learning possibilities.
Take care and have a Blessed week!