Students can be grouped into two groups in a classroom setting based on their ability. The tracking of students would entail grouping them according to their academic potentials, as well as putting them in different classes. This would mean that weak students would have their own classes.
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Those considered academic giants are also put in the same classroom setting. This system of education has been praised because it allows improvement on the side of weak students, as well as advancement on the side of brighter students.
To the weak students, this approach of grouping them together enables the concerned teacher to concentrate on their educational needs, which are usually separate from those of intelligent students. They should be allocated more to learn basic principles.
On the other hand, the intelligent students would be given challenging tasks to advance their capabilities. The teachers would also have easy time because they would be in a position to tailor-make the teaching process to suite each group. However, this system has been criticized since it fosters segregation.
Mixed ability classes have therefore been seen as the best approach. It encourages integration of students within a learning set up. The method ensures that learners are exposed to similar knowledge without one group seemingly getting advantage over the other.
Although this method has been criticized for the fact that it makes it difficult for the teacher to tailor make the teaching method to suit each group, it is generally more popular. Differentiating the work of students in mixed ability classes has been the remedy to its shortcomings.
Learning is a complex process that demands a deep understanding of the whole system. The system should be integrated to be in agreement with the needs of students for success to be achieved. It is a fact that in a learning process, learners do not have similar ability in grasping what is taught in class.
This is due to a number of reasons. In some cases, this may be due to the background of the learner, the intelligence of the student and other reasons that may cause the variability in learning. In some cases, a learner could have been taught through tuitions and therefore have easy time acquiring what is taught in class.
When the difference in ability to grasp what is taught in class is caused by a difference in the level of intelligence, it becomes a little more challenging. A teacher is put in a situation where there are two types of students. On one divide, there are students who are very bright and need little instructions to grasp what is taught in the class.
Harris and Silva (1993, p. 525) note that such quick learners needs to be put in an environment where their capability is challenged in order to ensure that they develop their intelligence. On the other hand, the less intelligent students need more contact that is personal with the teacher.
They need more attention and it may be necessary to remind them the basics in a learning process. Allan (1991, p. 62) asserts that an intelligent student requires lesser time to grasp what is taught in class but when the class have both extremes that is, excessively bright students and very slow learners, it becomes challenging.
The slow learners should not be left behind at the benefit of the fast learners. Educationists have therefore found themselves at awkward positions trying to satisfy both extremes.
This dilemma has seen many scholars develop interest in this field. Many researches have been conducted in an attempt to find solutions to the underlying problem. Many of the reports have been published while others have not. Their findings have proposed a number of ways through which this issue can be resolved.
Some scholars have proposed tracking as the best way, through which this issue may be resolved. With this approach, students are grouped according to their academic capacity. Academically strong students are grouped together in a separate class. The slow learners are also put in one class.
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The proponents of this approach say that the students would get the most out of this approach because the grouping is based on academic requirements. Teachers would find it easy to plan for the class because they would be taking each group separately. For this reason, both groups are allowed to learn at their own pace that is, without interference from the other divide.
The opponents of this approach argue that this approach is very discriminative. They say that grouping of students based on capability would be a direct way of informing the students that they belong to different academic classes even if they are in the same level of education. This may make such students lose hope and confidence in life, which are important factors in a learning set up
Another method that has been proposed and viewed as appropriate in solving the dilemma is the mixed ability model. In this case, students form groups in a classroom. In the groups, the concerned teacher would ensure that the intelligent students are grouped together with those who are dwarf academically.
This approach is important because it enhances learning even when the teacher is away. As the less intelligent students learn from their intelligent colleagues, the intelligent ones would internalize their knowledge by teaching their colleagues.
Although it has been termed the best approach, a number of critics have come up strongly to oppose it. The greatest criticism that this approach has received is that it takes the new generation back to the original problem. The problem is related to grouping students with different abilities.
The researcher seeks to investigate the relevance of the mixed ability learning method in solving the mentioned dilemma. This research seeks to ascertain the effect it has on students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and the society in general. Furthermore, the paper seeks to establish how this challenge can be dealt with in order to embrace the culture of mixing students with different academic talents.
Research Questions and Hypothesis
There are questions that this research aspires to answer. The following are some of the questions that the research intends to answer. The questions serve as a guide to the whole process of research.
- How relevant is the tracking method in grouping students with different abilities in learning
- How relevant is mixed ability classes as a method in grouping students with different abilities in learning
From the above research questions, the following are the hypotheses that the researcher seeks to confirm or discard based on the data to be gathered.
H1o. Tracking is the best approach in grouping students with different abilities in learning.
H1a. Tracking is never the best approach in grouping students with different abilities in learning.
H2o. Mixed ability classes are never the best methods of grouping students with different abilities in learning.
H2a.. Mixed ability classes are the best methods of grouping students with different abilities in learning
The issue of grouping learners has raised many questions from many quarters in the education system. Many scholars have conducted various researches and reported on different methods that can be applied when grouping students. Ansalone (2000, p. 12) says that learning is a very complex process. It is true that students never learn at the same pace.
Some students tend to have a stronger capability to grasp what is taught in class at a faster rate as opposed to others. It becomes very difficult to mix students with different capabilities in the same classroom. While the teacher would need to take more time on teaching the slow learners, this would be a waste of time for the quick leaner.
It is therefore a dilemma to teachers, as they have to ensure that all learners obtain the basics of what is taught. Hallinan (1994, p.80) reiterates that teachers have faced many problems in dealing with this issue. He says that teachers are always in a fix when handling students in a classroom set up.
Inasmuch as the attention should be given to all students irrespective of their ability in class, this scholar notes that some students demand more time as opposed to others. They require demand for more attention and the teacher involved should attempt to give them more attention as opposed to others.
According to Ansalone (2001, p. 41), the issue of grouping students is always very challenging. In a given class, it is a fact that students would be of different capabilities. There are quick learners and slow learners. This scholar proposes that learners should be categorized according to their ability in class.
This scholar says that it is very important to ensure that learners are given attention according to their ability. Those who are quick learners should not have their time wasted just because slow learners need more time to obtain the intended knowledge.
Conversely, slow learners should not be rushed because quick learners already have the intended knowledge. Both categories of learners should be given attention in an equal measure. A mechanism should be established, which would allow both learners to acquire the right knowledge. Therefore, such students should be grouped according to their ability.
This idea is supported by Halliday (1978, p. 89). The scholar notes that learners have different capabilities. For this matter, educationists should find a way in which learners should be grouped. This scholar proposes that educationists should adopt mechanisms that would allow them to categorize students as per their ability.
This is important, as it would allow teachers to go at the pace of learners. Fast learners are allowed to learn at a relatively faster speed. The slow learners on the other hand are given more time to grasp what is taught at a relatively slower pace. In the same vein, Askew and William (1995, p. 11) urge educationists to group students according to their capabilities.
The educationists should then find the best approach that each group should be given to ensure that students acquire the right knowledge. This scholar notes that it is important to include teaching prompts for those who are considered slow learners.
Such items as charts, diagrams, pictures and other relevant teaching aids should be incorporated in teaching slow learners. To the quick learners, it would be necessary to give them challenging tasks to enable them to further their capabilities. This would ensure that both sides obtain what they deserve in an educational system.
The idea of grouping students according to their capabilities is supported by Graves (1983, p. 36).The scholar says that students may exhibit different capabilities at different stages of learning due to different reasons. The reason why a student may be slow in grasping what is taught in class might be due to his or her background.
This scholar notes that some students come to after taking some tutorials at home. For this reason, he or she may appear to be more knowledgeable than those who had not prepared at all. A teacher may therefore conclude that such a student is a quick learner. Given the same environment, those who were considered slow learners may catch up with and overtake those perceived to be quick in learning. The system of grouping should therefore be flexible.
Bailey (1978, p. 31) supports this flexible approach of grouping students. He says that when grouping a student, which is very important to ensure equity, the approach should be competitive. It should be in a way that would allow students who show their prowess elevated while those who show a declining abilities elevated as well.
This way, there would be a competitive environment created within the institution. Those who are slow learners would be challenged in their classes. They would try to climb the ladder to higher levels, which is most certainly more prestigious.
Those who are in higher groupings would also try to ensure that they maintain their statuses. To do this, they would have to work even harder in order to be in a position to achieve the best out of this process. This competition is encouraged in such a learning institution. Gamoran (1987, p. 136) agrees that groping is necessary.
However, he does not approve the method that categorizes bright students together. He proposes that the grouping should incorporate all categories of learners. Quick learners should be grouped together with slow learners so that quick learners can be of help to slow learners.
This scholar argues that for one reason or the other, some learners find it easier to learn from fellow learners than from teachers. Mixed grouping would allow both students to share. As slow learners acquire more knowledge from quick learners, quick learners would be enhancing the already acquired knowledge.
This scholar notes that when a student is given an opportunity to teach a fellow student and he does it properly, there are higher probabilities that he or she would retain such knowledge for a longer period than if he or she were to retain it to himself or herself. The mixed grouping is therefore of benefit to both divides.
Mixed grouping is also supported by Bell (1999, p. 25). According to him, learning is one of the most challenging tasks. The fact that different learners have different capacities makes this process even more challenging. Education experts should always know that it is important to understand the capability of the student per subject.
It is a common phenomenon that student A would be good in Mathematics but poor in languages while student B may be good in Languages but poor in Mathematics. When grouping students, it is important to group such students together.
Those who are good in English would be of help to those who are poor in it, as they are assisted in Mathematics. Through this, there would be a symbiotic relationship between students.
Even though it can be very challenging to teachers and students, mixed grouping is the best approach in teaching students. This is according to Brimfield, Masci and DeFiore (2002, p. 17). They say that this method may make it difficult for the teacher to devise the best approach to be applied in class because requirements of quick learners are the opposite of what slow learners need.
However, this method is free from any form of discrimination. All learners feel part of the system implying that they would be equal to each other. This creates a community for the learners where equity is held high. To slow learners, this would be much appreciated.
They would feel part of the team and this would help them overcome their challenge. However, Bryan (1996, p. 188) calls for caution when employing this strategy. Caution should be taken to ensure that quick learners are allowed to learn at their own pace.
The slow learners should not be ignored in this process. The system that is employed should be sensitive to slow learners. It is only through this that the system would be considered effective to be used in a learning institution.
Mixed ability classes are the most common, especially in institutions where the population is relatively small. As Fulk and King (2001, p. 82) report, it would be uneconomical to group students according to their abilities when the population is relatively small. A class of about 20 learners would not be easy to group with an intention of teaching them separately.
As this scholar notes, grouping is most appropriate when the population of learners is large enough. In such situations, it becomes difficult for the teacher to give particular attention to specific students. As such, it becomes necessary that learners be grouped as per their ability.
A teacher would therefore know beforehand the specific classes, which would need extra attention and the group that would require to be challenged. Through this, teaching and the learning process would be easier, not only to teachers concerned but also to the learners themselves.
This idea is supported by Bryan (1996, p. 193). The scholar notes that in case a class is relatively small, grouping students might be necessary but not for purposes of learning. In such cases, learners would form small groupings of about five students. This scholar proposes two approaches to this issue. The first approach, which he recommends, would be mixing students based on talent.
This would encourage sharing and in the process, the weak students stand to benefit. The other approach would involve having students with equal abilities grouped together. This approach is helpful when teachers want to develop the talents of weak and strong students separately.
In this regard, weak students would be assigned to a specific teacher who best understands their weaknesses. Such groups would visit the assigned teacher during their free time.
On the other hand, the brighter students would also be assigned to another teacher whom they will also have a session with during free time. In such sessions, the assigned teacher would pose challenges to such students. The students would then be converged in a classroom set up where their abilities would be gauged.
Fotos and Ellis (1991, p. 617) is completely opposed to the idea of grouping students based on talent. This scholar laments that many schools are currently adopting the tracking method of groping students. Students are put in different classes based on their academic potentials.
When this method is adopted, weak students are the most affected. The scholar observes that their first torture is psychological. They are aware that they are in the classes because they are academically dwarf. This is dangerous because such students would withdraw and develop a wall between them and the other group of students, as well as teachers.
As Collentine and Freed (2004, p. 165) observe, this would only make them drop academically. When such a student resigns to fate, he or she fails to realize that he or she has the capability of achieving the best. Such a student also fails to note that education and the whole process of learning is all about the will and attitude. Such students fail to recognize that they can favorably compete with the other groups of students.
This idea is shared by Cotterall (1990, p. 55). According to this scholar, it is very important that a teacher create a learning environment where students would feel that they are treated equally. It is necessary to appreciate best performers in any class. However, this can be done in such a way that below average learners do not realize that they are not valued.
When a student performs well, he or she should be appreciated at that moment. Afterwards, all of them should be put in an environment where they feel that anyone can make it to the top in class. For this reason, such restrictive policies as tracking should be avoided within a learning institution. Tracking or mixed abilities grouping are policies that learning institutions should avoid.
According to Epstein (1985, p. 26), no student is permanently bright or stupid. There are various reasons that would make one student perform better or poorer than the other. In most of cases, the kind of environment that the student is exposed to matters a lot.
Learning groups are important in enhancing learning outside classrooms. However, in formation of such groups, teachers should avoid making their presence felt.
For this matter, teachers should encourage students to form the groups on their own. After this, the concerned teacher should moderate the groups to ensure balance. This should be done in a way that students do not realize that the bias was based on their academic credentials.
In a learning environment, it is expected that there will be a group of slow learners and another group of fast learners. A teacher has the two sets of learners to deal with. There are various stakeholders, with different expectations as regards to students and teachers.
The parent expects the teacher to offer learners with the best approach to learning that would enable the learner acquire as much knowledge as possible. The administration has the pressure from the parent and other stakeholders to elevate the status of the school in terms of academic performance.
This pressure is directed to teachers. Students themselves have high expectations from their teachers. They believe that the teacher is in a position to understand them and provide them with knowledge in the best way possible, which would make them learn easily.
All attention is focused on the teacher. In the process of meeting these expectations, the teacher is exposed to the two groups of learners. The group with quick learners should be taken through instructions with a relatively higher speed.
They need tasks that are more challenging every moment they encounter the teacher. Bringing the basics concepts to them would be a waste of time, as those are concepts they have already mastered. On the other hand, the teacher has the slow learners to deal with in the same class.
The slow learners need time to grasp the concept being taught. At times, it may require the teacher to go back to the basics in order to allow the students grasp the concept being taught. A teacher has these two groups to handle in a classroom set up and each group expects the best out of the teacher. They believe what they obtain from the teacher would benefit them and their class.
The issue of grouping students may seem to be the best approach to finding the solution to this dilemma. In particular, tracking can work best. This is because in tracking, students would be grouped in accordance to their academic capabilities.
With this, a teacher would have learners with similar educational demand grouped together. It becomes easier for the teacher to handle separate classes and achieving the desirable result would be easier. However, this approach has received criticism from many quarters.
Edwards and Woodhead (1996, p. 89) say that pure breeding as an approach to grouping students is more negating as it does not bring any positive impact. When the tracking method is used in a given institution, it breeds segregation.
The bright students would develop the attitude that they are special and would look down upon their lesser capable comrades. On the other hand, the lesser intelligent students, in their groups, would withdraw to themselves, making it very difficult to convince them that they have the capability, just as their counterparts in the other group.
This calls for a mixed ability grouping. The students within a class form smaller groups where they can advance what was taught in class. In this regard, the concerned teacher would ensure that the smaller groups are well balanced in terms of capabilities.
This approach is good as it eliminates all forms of discrimination. However, it does not solve the initial problem. This method brings us back to the problem whose solution should be sought that is, having students with different abilities, hence different educational needs in the same classroom.
This problem must now be solved using mixed ability approach, in addition to other practices that would moderate the requirements of the two divides. The aim is to ensure that both groups are well taken care of. This problem is to be resolved by this research. To find the desired answers to the above question, the researcher employed the methodology below.
As earlier noted, this research proposal will aim at establishing facts through research pertaining to homogeneous grouping of gifted students. The study reviews both theoretical and conception literature before moving ahead to collect data.
The study is significant since it offers policy makers a clear insight concerning gifted aptitude. The rationale of this research is to talk about the researchers’ results in detail and find out which method(s) of learner grouping is superlative for a triumphant training in a school environment.
As an ingredient of that progression, the study emphasizes on a number of realistic plans for tutors to assist in supporting students’ accomplishment within their reading factions
This chapter focuses on various aspects of research development. It includes methods of data collection, analysis and presentation. Every research project applies a certain research method to achieve its objectives depending on its goals.
The methods used to conduct research in this project compared closely with the methods proposed in the project proposal. In research, design deals primarily with aims, uses, purposes, intentions, and plans within the practical constraints of time, location, money, and availability of staff. In this study, respondents were briefed in advance. The officials of American School of Dubai were given relevant notice by the researcher.
The study population was also amicably informed in order to get them prepared for the study. Briefing was important because it could enhance reliability of this study. It is also ethical to inform people before researching on them. The findings were also made public to the researched as one way of ensuring morality in the study.
Furthermore, the researcher observed researcher-researcher ethics by keeping away from criticism. Out of 15 questionnairs sent to repondents, 14 of them were filled and returned. This was not a bad response. The response rate was high because the researcher insisted that the study was purely academic. This encouraged many teachers at American School of Dubai to fill in their questionnairs.
This research utilized quantitative research methods in conducting the study and collecting data. Quantitative research was used althrough because it aims at summarizing data mathematically. In this regard, the research took the form of a survey, whereby the researcher identified some individuals and posted questionnaires to them.
The sampled population was selected randomly in order to eliminate biases. The researcher made follow-ups by conducting respondents on phone. Interviewing is another method of data collection that was used in this research. The researcher extracted more information from respondents by calling them.
There were two key methods used to gather information in this report. The first one was through a questionaire, which was administered online to the staff at the American School of Dubai. It is attached to this document.
The questionaire sought to capture various attutudes of staff at the American School of Dubai regarding their academic performance. The second source of information used for the research was literature on various aspects motivation.
The focus of the literature review was to find information on the application of motivation techniques and also to determine the current state of research in the use of gouping of students. The questionnaire had four Parts. The first part sought to capture the biodata information of respondents. The second part dealt with the demography and gender of the respondents.
This was to ascertain the prevalence of views in varoius categories in order to ensure that if any differences came about, then they would be captured in their demographic space. The third part dealt with academic credentials and work experience.
The motivation for this section came from the understanding that different sections of population respond differently to motivators, based on age and academic credentials. The fourth part delved into the specific issues relating to student grouping, starting from the understanding of the concept to the possible effects it would have on students.
The questionaire also employed a mix of open ended and closed ended questions to capture different aspects of issues studied. Open ended questions were used because thay give respondents more time to figure out their opinions, which would make them volunteer more information related to felings, outlooks and comprehension of the subject.
This would allow a researcher to understand the position of respondents as regards to feelings. Open ended questions minimize some errors that could have been created in the course of research. Respondents rarely forget answers if given an opportunity to respond freely.
Furthermore, respondents cannot ignore some questions because they must go through all of them. Open ended questions generate data that can be used in data analysis by other researchers. In other words, they allow secondary data analysis.
On the other hand, closed-ended questions are analyzed easily. That is why they were used in this study. Each response can be coded for statistical interpretation. Nonetheless, closed-ended questions are compatible with computer analysis package.
The technique is more specific meaning that its answers are consistent in all conditions. This aspect is impossible with open-ended questions because each respondent is allowed to use his/her own words. Finally, closed-ended questions take less time to administer unlike open-ended questions, which are detailed hence time consuming.
The questionnaire was sent to respondents through the internet that is, the researcher mailed the questions to respective respondents. The researcher arrived at this decision after considering time and reseources. The method is costless and less time consuming.
Furthmore, the method allows respondents to reflect on the questions and answer them accurately. Employing research assistants would be problematic because of the sensitivity of the study. Many people would be reluctant to give their views freely.
The method is ineffective because answers are not independent of themselves. The respondent might not have filled the questions themselves. Moreover, the method is affected by the respondent’s level of literacy.
One big disadvantage of the technique is that there is no interaction between the researcher and the researched. This means that respondent’s reactions are not captured. Reactions are important because they give more information regarding to the feelings of respondents.
Generally, the technique is more applicable where the researcher is interested in numbers, not deep feelings of the respondent. In this study, the researcher is interested in identifying the number of students who feel capability grouping pay is the suitable method of stimulating learners.
The literature collected provided information regarding various theories of motivation spread across the last four decades. This provides a historical perspective since the area of motivatoin started receiving specific attention at that period.
Secondly, the literature availed a number of theories dealing with the application of motivation in the business world and capability grouping in the context of cademic develpment in the educational industry. The American School of Dubai fits well within this parameter.
Finally, the literature provided information on the state of research on the field. Various researchers have conducted studies on various elements of capability grouping and its effect on learning. This gave the study a sound academic backing and a strong basis for drawing comparisons and conclusions.
The use of the questionaire made it possible to capture issues that are unique to the American School of Dubai. This is because there was no accessible literature with required degree of relevence to the subject matter about the American School of Dubai, Las Vegas.
The targeted staff responded to the questionaire online. The availability of staff influenced the choice of this method because the American School of Dubai operates throughout and therefore it is not possible at any one time to find all of them in one place.
An online questionaire reduced the costs of data collection, assured confidentiality, and was available thoughout for the staff for a fixed period. After collection, the data went through analysis, culminating the observations and conslusions discussed in chapter three and four, respectively.
Theoretical and Conceptual Framework
The study utilized deductive scaffold because some theories were used to give a certain picture of the study. Deductive reasoning starts by analyzing some concepts before moving to the field to confirm the claims.
The researcher analyzed some theories related to capability grouping before moving to the field to collect data. The technique is constructive because it equips the researcher with relevant information. In other words, deductive reasoning moves from generalizations to the specific idea. Two theories were first analyzed before moving to the field.
The most applicable sampling method for this exercise was random sampling. Considering that the targeted population consisted of staff in the housekeeping section, there was no much risk of having biased data.
If the survey needed to cover the entire staff of the American School of Dubai, systematic sampling coupled with stratified sampling would be ideal to ensure cross-departmental representation. However, this survey targeted the housekeeping staff hence random sampling proved sufficient to collect required data.
Secondary Data Used
Secondary data for analysis in this project came from various publications. These included reports, journal articles, and research publications. Most of it related to the work that other researchers in the field of motivation undertook.
The other areas where the literature review covered include theories of motivation and the application of capability grouping in various institutions. The nature of material used varied.
Journals dealing with specific aspects of motivation provided specific information on specific research elements investigated by researchers. Some reports from intergovernmental organizations proved useful in providing information on the application of capability grouping. From these sources, several findings came to the fore.
The online questionnaire provided the means of collecting primary data for this project. The survey covered 15 teachers working across various shifts at the American School of Dubai in the housekeeping department.
This sample is representative of the entire cadre of staff targeted by the survey in the housekeeping section. The choice of respondents was by random sampling based on the individual’s willingness to participate. The questionnaire had a mixture of open ended and closed ended questions.
This design enabled the study to provide as much detail as possible while eliminating the risk of high variance in responses. The administration of the questionnaires took place online because of varying working hours. In addition, it eased access to the questionnaire. After filing in the soft copy, respondents sent it to a designated email address. This measure resulted to reduced costs transport and accommodation.
The expenses could be occasioned by physical administration of questionnaires. Moreover, it saved research time because it was easy to transfer the information from a soft copy to the analysis software because the findings were analyzed using a software referred to as SPSS. Finally, it did not generate any paper waste hence contributing to environmental conservation.
Validity and Reliability
Reliability means appropriateness, applicability and truthfulness of a study. It is the ability of research instruments to produce results that are in agreement with theoretical and conceptual values. In this study, internal validity was ensured through checking the represenativeness of the sample.
The researcher ensured that the sample used captured all important characters at the American School of Dubai. External validity was ensured through triangulation that is, the researcher used more than one technique in collecting data. External validity was also guaranteed by asking respondents to give their views.
Reliability means that the study is consistent and lacks any ambiquity. It is related to the accuracy of instruments that is, how accurate the measuring device is in measuring what it claims to measure. In this study, it was achieved through increasing verifiability of the perspective. The researcher adopted the principles of coherence, opennes and discourse in order to guarantee reliability.
Scope and Limitations
This research was conducted in Unted Arabs Emirates and therefore most of the findings are a reflection of this country, speciffically the Dubai City. The results of the findings would therefore hold in in a society that is closely related to it. The scope was limited to primary and junior high school level of education.
The result of this finding may therefore not hold in any higher learning institutions. In collection of data, a number of challages were met. The first challenge was the reluctance by some teachers to volunteer information the researcher.
They wanted the motive of this clearly stated. However, this was overcome when the researcher convinced them that this was purely an academic research. The administrators were also too busy to find time to be interviewed.
The researcher also noted with concern that some respondeds were carried away by emmotions when responding to the questions. This was a jeopady to the validity of the responses.
Result and Findings
Games and stories
According to the primary data gathered from the teachers and other concerned educationists, games and stories are some of the best ways in which learner’s ability in class can be enhanced. Learning as a task may be daunting.
Teachers involved should attempt to make this process as enjoyable as possible. Introducing games may be the best way to ensure that a learner grasps the intended knowledge in a much easier way, especially when dealing with young learners.
When handling a subject such as Mathematics, a teacher can devise games that would challenge the learners’ arithmetic prowess. Such games as those that would force the learner to add, subtract, divide or multiply without the use of a machine or a book and a pen would be very appropriate.
To the more intelligent students, it would be a challenge because it would demand a lot of reasoning in order to arrive at the desired answer. To the slow learners, this method would boost their thinking capacity. It would enable them to reason at a faster rate than they would if they were to undertake a normal Mathematical test.
When teaching Languages, storytelling could be a useful method of ensuring that learners grasp the intended knowledge. Stories bring the attention of the learner closer. When a story is told, a learner would have to imagine the episode happening. He or she must create the whole scenario in his mind.
The stories can be used as one way of enhancing the memory of the learner. Such a learner would be asked to retell a story that was told before. It would require such a learner to sharpen his or her memory to be able to retell such stories with precision.
According to this research, Homogeneous grouping, also known as tracking was found to be one of the possible ways of grouping students. In this context, students are grouped according to their academic potential. Higher achievers are grouped together and so are lower achievers.
This method has been lauded as the easiest way to handle a class with varying abilities. The proponents of this method argue that when students are grouped according to their abilities, it becomes easy to give specialized attention to each group.
To the high achievers, with the ability to learn at a relatively high rate, it would be appropriate to develop an approach that would enable them learn concepts that are more advanced.
The concerned teacher would develop an approach that would enable these learners encounter greater challenges in every learning session. Edwards and Woodhead, (1996, p. 93) say that such advanced learners require more challenging tasks, as this would open up their minds. Subjecting them to basic concepts would be restricting their abilities.
To the slow learners, this approach would enable them be given the attention they need from both the teaching staff and administration. This group of students need more teaching aids. This may be in form of charts, pictures, photographs and such other related items that would allow them have a vision of what is taught in classroom.
When in such group, the administration may be challenged to provide them with such materials. The teaching staff would also find it easy to handle such a class to meet its expectations.
As Cotterall and Cohen (2003, p. 160) observe, when a teacher is aware that a particular group is composed purely of poor performers, it would be easy to develop an approach that would suite them best. This group needs more time on learning the basic concepts, unlike their brighter counterparts.
However, this method has received a lot of criticism from many quarters. This method is said to encourage segregation among the students. The opponents argue that this approach creates a situation where learners who are at the same learning level are taught different concepts, hence giving them different concepts.
As slow learners are given the basics, the intelligent learners are given concepts that are more advanced. This is unfair practice to the less intelligent. It denies them the opportunity to catch up with their more intelligent counterparts in a fair level competition. Moreover, it creates a rift between the two groups of students.
Following the strong opposition of homogeneous grouping, heterogeneous grouping, which is also known as Cooperative learning or mixed ability classes, has been seen as the best alternative. According to the data gathered in this research, it has been established that mixed method has been accepted as the most moderate method of handling learners with different capabilities.
In this method, students with different abilities are grouped together in the same class. In case the class size is relatively large and the same class requires different streams, the streams would have mixed ability learners. No unit would have either too bright or too foolish students.
Within the class, students would form smaller groups, which would be all inclusive. Such groups would be having the intelligent students and less intelligent ones. This would encourage cooperation among learners, as the quick learner would try to help slow learners acquire the concepts, hence the name cooperative learning.
Unlike tracking where students are purely grouped as per their abilities, mixed ability classes have been praised as an all-inclusive method that brings out the true face of the society we live in. In this society, Ellis (2001, p. 42)) observes that capability of people is not the same.
However, each person accepts the capacity and the way we stay. This method enables students be in a position to learn similar concepts at the same level. There arises no situation where a given group is given more advanced concepts at the expense of the other group. This way, equality is fostered among the learners.
This method has however not gone without criticism. A section of educationists have criticized this method as not being fair, both to the weak and academically strong students.
It is not also favourable to teachers involved. To the weak student, this method would make him or her lack individualized attention that he or she may require from the teacher. The teacher may tend to be encouraged by the brighter students.
The moment the teacher sees the brighter student is mastering the concepts being passed, the teacher becomes convinced that the entire class has understood the concept. From this research, some of the teachers who were interviewed admitted that they always gauge the rest of the class based on the few section, which has a quick mastery of what is taught in class. As such, weak student are left behind trying to struggle with the concepts.
This has seen a serious variation in performance. As one of the administrators admitted, it becomes very weird when in the same class with the same teachers and same environment one student scores a straight A while another has an E. The parents would also want their expectations to be met by the institution.
It would be a little difficult trying to explain to a parent the reason behind this disparity. To the academically strong students, this method is a waste of their time. These students have the capacity to grasp what is taught in classroom at a faster rate.
Taking more time on basics would not be the best approach to handle them. As one of the teacher was interviewed, it may be necessary to repeat a concept to the class just for the sake of the less intelligent group.
Repeating the concept to them would be inevitable because some would ask questions whose answers would demand a repeat of a concept that was learnt previously. They cannot be assumed. In so doing, the brighter students feel wasted.
To the concerned teachers, this is the most challenging approach in handling students in a classroom set up. When students with varying abilities are grouped together, the teacher would be forced to find the means of ensuring that both divides of the class are satisfied.
As more challenging concepts are introduced to satisfy the needs of the students with higher mastery capacities, students with lower mastery capacities should not be assumed.
As the teacher takes more time explaining basic concept to the slow learners, it should not be lost to the teacher that there are intelligent students who already have mastered that concept, and therefore repeating it is a waste of time. This is a very delicate balancing in an attempt to satisfy the expectations of the students, the administration and the parents, all of whom expect a pass.
Differentiating work of students in mixed ability classes
As a remedy to the shortcomings of mixed ability classes, pundits have proposed differentiating the work for the students. In this case, a teacher would need to assign students with different capabilities different exercises. A lot of care is needed when implementing this method.
As Collentine and Freed (2004, p. 169) observe, the concerned teachers would need to ensure that both groups of learners do not realize that the teacher is biased. For this reason, the teacher should avoid such cases as assigning intelligent students extra work or specific tasks that appear more challenging. This may affect both groups of students.
The less intelligent students may consider this a form of discrimination. They would develop the notion that the intelligent students are given special attention.
This would make them develop a similar attitude as they would when tracking is used. To the intelligent students, this may appear to be a punishment. They may fail to realize the rationale behind this extra work and this may make them develop a negative attitude towards the entire work.
To employ this method, a teacher would have to handle the class without showing any bias to any of the two divides. In this process, Ellis (2001, p. 46) proposes that the teacher should consider the use of multiple books (those that are very basic and those that are a bit complex).
When issuing assignments at the end of the lesson, the teacher would give learners the freedom to choose assignments from the multiple books. Ellis explains that typically, each group would go for what it believes is within its level.
As weak students go for the basics, students who are more intelligent would go for more challenging tasks. This way, a teacher would be satisfying both the divides without making either side realize that there is a difference in treatment. Many scholars and educationists have recommended this method as the best compromise.
They say that this method is not only responsive to the needs of the students, but also solves the puzzle for teachers. It makes it possible for the teachers to handle both students separately, without creating an environment where the students would feel that they are treated differently.
Meeting the Expectations
In a learning institution, there are expectations that should be met by various stakeholders. A system incorporates parents, teachers, the administration, and the society in general, with the central focus on students. The figure below is a representation of this.
All the stakeholders expect the student to pass. As can be seen from the above diagram, all stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that the students do well in their academics. However, of all the stakeholders, pressure is always piled on the teacher.
The teacher is expected to see into it that the student passes even if some of the stakeholders fail to play their tasks. Because stakeholders expect the teacher to register a good performance, mixed ability classes provide the best solution to this.
Asked to rate the best method of grouping students between tracking and mixed ability classes, teachers gave varying answers. However, most showed preference to mixed ability classes. In particular, most recommended differentiating the work of students in mixed ability classes.
Learning is a very complex process. On the side of the learner, it involves getting knowledge in an environment that may not be pleasant to him or her. To the teacher, it entails imparting knowledge to learners who have different capabilities in terms of grasping the skills being passed across. This may not be very easy.
The teacher is faced with the problem of passing knowledge to learners with different requirements. Quick learners need lesser time to grasp what is taught. They need tasks that are more challenging every time they are involved in a learning process.
This is the best way through which they can develop their knowledge. On the other hand, slow learners need more time to grasp simple concepts. As such, they would demand that the teacher dedicates more time teaching the basics. These are two opposing needs of students in the same classroom. As a teacher, it is necessary that as more time is taken teaching the basics, the needs of learners should be taken into consideration.
In an attempt to solve the above problems, scholars and other educationists have proposed a number of ways through which this dilemma could be solved. Tracking has been one of the proposed methods and one in which some learning institutions have put in place as a means through which this problem could be solved. In this method, learners are grouped in different classes based on their academic potentials.
This offers an easy solution because teachers would have students with similar requirements grouped together. However, this method has been under criticism from various quarters. Pundits have it that this method is very discriminative and encourages segregation in the class.
For this reason, it is considered inappropriate. This leaves mixed ability method as the most appropriate approach in the process of learning.
Although it brings us back to the original problem, it facilitates interactivity between the quick learners and the slow learners. It is the best method that responds to the expectations of the parents, teachers, administrators, learners, and other stakeholders involved in the learning process.
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