• Question: Mixed-ability classes - good or bad? I know I'm oversimplifying but - all else being equal - is setting good for some and not others, or bad/good for all?

    Asked by iteachtweets on 30 Apr 2015.
    • Photo: anon

      anon answered on 30 Apr 2015:

      Tough question. I think the answer depends on your goals and circumstances. If the goal is to get each student to learn as much as possible and you have the time and resources to break up groups into their respective ‘abilities’ then I can see how this can be beneficial. That being said, there is literature that highlights the value in getting students to teach other students in order to further their understanding. Additionally, students are not only deepening their comprehension of the content by helping other students, they are also developing empathy and interpersonal skills that should not be overlooked. Thus, while the very ‘top-end’ of a mixed-ability class may not learn as much as they would in a separated ability class, their potential increase in learning is likely minimal and not as well-rounded as mixed ability groups.

      There is also literature on ‘flexible ability grouping’ which is ability grouping that allows for students to change groups – literature suggest this is the most effective kind. Here is a good study on it: http://people.virginia.edu/~cat3y/EDIS_882/February%2019_files/Ability_Grouping.pdf

    • Photo: Kathryn Asbury

      Kathryn Asbury answered on 26 Mar 2018:

      Hi. The best recent research on this has been done by Becky Francis’s group and suggests that mixed ability classes are a good thing and that ability grouping should be strongly discouraged in all schools. You can hear her talk about it in this TES podcast: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/listen-what-every-teacher-needs-know-about-setting-professor-becky. My understanding of the literature is that there is possibly a small benefit to ability grouping for the most able pupils but that this is far outweighed by the benefit to all other pupils of having mixed ability classes.