Guest Author

Each All Things PLC blog post author has been personally invited to contribute by the All Things PLC committee. All contributing experts have firsthand experience successfully implementing the PLC at Work™ process.

Jennifer Deinhart, K-8 Mathematics Specialist, Mason Crest Elementary Schools

To Ability Group or Not to Ability Group? That Is the Question

From Richard DuFour and Rebecca DuFour:

At a recent PLC at WorkTM Institute that included over 1,500 educators representing 14 states, it became evident that ability grouping for homeroom placement and/or core content instruction remains a prevalent practice in many schools and districts. Students are divided into low, middle, and high groups (or tracks, levels, etc.) based on last year’s test scores and/or teacher recommendations. The institute faculty challenged this practice citing John Hattie’s research in Visible Learning, which concludes that ability grouping is a detrimental practice for students—one that ensures that some students will not learn at high levels. Ability grouping is clearly a practice that is misaligned with advancing the mission that PLC schools embrace—ensuring high levels of learning for all.

At least one team of elementary teachers at the institute was convinced that ability grouping was not in the best interest of students or teachers, not only because of the research but also because of their own experiences. They explained that ability grouping was an expected practice in their school and district. During the institute, members of this team interviewed different faculty members, read Hattie’s synthesis of the research, and asked for the name of a school to contact that could share a different approach to grouping students for instruction. We recommended they contact the educators at Mason Crest Elementary in Fairfax County, Virginia. Jennifer Deinhart, K–8 mathematics specialist at Mason Crest, provided the following timely response. Our hope is that schools of every level across the world will take Jennifer’s great insights to heart.

(This is a guest post by Jennifer Deinhart, K-8 Mathematics Specialist, Mason Crest Elementary School)

We spend a great deal of time thinking about how we group our students for instruction, and we are happy to answer your concerns about ability grouping.

When students are grouped by ability in different classrooms, there are several factors that can have a negative impact:

1) Students in the struggling and middle groups will not have the vocal models and exposure to the rich talk of the higher-achieving students. These models often provide great examples of how to defend thinking around mathematical ideas and share processes and ideas that may connect better with students than the language of the teacher alone.

2) While the intent of structuring classrooms according to ability may be to create a pace that is more manageable for students, more often expectations are lowered and the work is overscaffolded. Students learn best when there is a balance of struggle and support. It is important that all students are held to high expectations (the end goals are all the same right?) and that they have opportunities to problem solve through mistakes with guidance such as questioning from the teacher.

3) Make no mistake, students will know what group they are placed in, regardless of how it is communicated or how "disguised" the levels are. This often leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy that they are not good enough to handle rigorous learning experiences.

So if grouping classrooms in this way can have such a negative impact, here are a few ways that we try to meet the various needs of our learners in heterogeneous classrooms:

1) Consider flexibly grouping students for guided instruction that changes based on common formative assessment data from unit tests, performance tasks, and exit tickets. In this way, you will be setting up your guided instruction in your math workshop much like you would in guided reading. Students change as they show mastery of concepts.

2) Alternate grouping in the classroom between homogeneous groups and heterogeneous groups. Children with different levels of ability can often partner to tackle a problem, task, or game.

3) We use differentiation techniques such as tiered tasks. These tasks cover the exact same objective, but start at a level that is either on grade level or below, and gradually increase in number and rigor to the grade-level standard and beyond. Students move through the tasks at their own pace, but since they are so similar, a teacher can manage instruction with a group of students in various places.  

4) Create opportunities for spiraling back to objectives when students need extra time and support. This is when looking at the data from your formative assessments can really drive how you structure your math workshop to include both current and review topics.

I hope this information is helpful. I am including a link to an article that serves as evidence to what I am sharing in this email:

Best of luck!


Jasmine Slappey

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Upon reading the title, I was very interested because I thought ability grouping was the required thing to do in classrooms. I am a fairly new first grade teacher, and I have always grouped my students based on low-high abilities in reading and math. That is what I have always been taught. I did not realize the negative factors exceeded the positive. There are various reasons as to why we group our students based on their abilities. I assumed this would help them succeed. I now have something to look forward to in my classroom next week. Thank you for sharing!

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Kendale Caldwell

As a first year kindergarten teacher I have struggled with the decision of ability grouping during centers/rotations or not. While working independently at their seats and during centers/rotations I have mixed abilities working together. My goal is for high-level learners to assist lower-level learners, since teaching others is the highest form of master. However, I see the high-level learners doing the work for the lower-level learners. I am having a difficult time instructing high-level learners on helping not doing the work for others. On the flip side, during small group teacher instructed reading groups I ability group. These groups are constantly changing based upon reading levels. This seems to be working but I often wonder what it would "look like" to ability group for everything.

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Bridget Doyle

Thank you, this article was thought-provoking. In my school we ability group for math, however we see quite a span within these groups. I have MAP scores in my "accelerated" third grade group that spans almost 24 points. I believe the key to success here is spending time making heterogeneous groups within your homogeneous groups not by ability but by skill. I know teachers who have students on the low end of math skills and because they have an aide are really able to target specific students on specific skills. I have certain mathematicians who do very well at rote multiplication topics however fall apart in geometry and problem-solving tasks. Small groups make targeting much easier.

A question for those of you with heterogeneous groups, can you share the model that you find works best for differentiating? With only 55 minutes, I find grouping on a daily basis very difficult and would love to hear your ideas on best support these groups daily versus twice a week.
Ability grouping can be such a hot topic because there are times students need specific, more individualized instruction and yet it can hold back others in the class if not done right. I am both a teacher and a parent and yet I am still torn. I have a child who catches on quickly to concepts but very rarely has the chance to dig deeper because the teacher is taxed with other students while I have a younger one who would rather read, draw and write than multiply. While I have seen it work both ways, I find it working more effectively in some groups more than others.

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Katie Bowlin

I am a teacher attached to fourth grade.The article provided me with new insights on how to employ different techniques to group students without causing them to feel incapable.As you rightfully stated,if keen attention is not paid on how students are grouped to receive instruction,it can convey the wrong message. If a child starts feeling that he/she is not good enough to handle the learning experiences,then that child's learning will be arrested.

Thanks for sharing!

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Wendy Brock

I am not an educator, but I am parent. Both of my sons are very strong students and they have absolutely despised being "held back" when they in the inclusion classrooms. At our K-8 school one class per grade level is "inclusion" and has all the kids with the learning disabilities and the ones that have been held back a year or more. Then they add in some high performing students to balance it out. My oldest hated it because when they did group work, he had to do everything. My youngest hates it because they review continually and he is bored to tears. It's ridiculous to teach a 9 year old who reads on an 8th grade level and does math on a 7th grade level the same thing you teach an ESL student who doesn't speak English. I am seriously considering home schooling until I can find a different school, and I am not a home school advocate by any means. I truly want ALL the kids to get the help and education they need, but right now, it is the top students that are missing out. My oldest started high school this year and LOVES it because he is in the advanced classes, is challenged, and the kids that were just in school because they had to be have been "filtered" into other classes. When I was a kid in the 70s/80s, we were grouped from 3rd grade on and inclusion only occurred in PE and other less academic classes. I would prefer this model be followed again.

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Michele McPheely

Thank you for sharing your insight and research. It appears from all the research I have even seen that heterogeneous rather than homogeneous grouping is better for all. I am a bit shocked that with so much proof that grouping and tracking is so harmful to our students, in the way the see themselves, in what they believe they can achieve, that we still see it in schools. I know many schools who still have "gifted" programs. Do you believe that it would be best for all the students if these programs were ended? How would you bets present that idea to parents who believe their child is gifted?

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Stephanie Atkins

I really enjoyed the article and reading the comments. I believe my site and district are moving toward differentiated instruction and away from ability grouping, but we, the teachers, are still being mandated to use ability grouping to provide reteaching and enrichment to students. My first grade team observed that children struggling in the "low" group rarely moved out and their growth was limited. My first grade team has also been able to dwindle this time down to 30 minutes a day, by convincing our administration that this is not the best practices for our students by citing research. The rest of our reading and writing block is devoted to differentiated instruction in the home room. We have observed greater gains when our students are in a heterogeneous environment.

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Jessica Wilson

I have been a Kindergarten for 14 years and my PLC has always debated over this issue of grouping students by ability. My classroom follows an inclusion model consisting of ESL students, students with IEP's and moderate disabilities. When the children are in small groups/learning centers or working independently at their seats, I have mixed abilities working and sitting together. This way they are able to learn from each other with peer to peer discourse. However, in guided reading groups, I go by skill and then reading level. So if a student in a low group makes progress, they move up into the next reading level group and so on. Flexible grouping has always worked for me.

It was interesting to read the article and I agree with another blog that asked.. how can you support a group of readers productively if they are all on different levels reading different books? Even if they are working on comprehension, wouldn't like abilities foster some comfort amongst the readers? I know if I was a struggling reader in a group of super readers I would feel like they were smarter than me. I wouldn't want to stress students out that way especially in Kindergarten.

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Torie Ponder

I really enjoyed reading your writing piece on ability grouping. I am a Pre-K teacher and unfortunately I have to say that ability grouping starts here. I honestly don't have any choice but to ability group. I have students that come in knowing most of what is covered in Pre-K and then students that come in and not knowing anything. I try to change my grouping around from week to week based on what we will be learning however, it is very hard when you have such a gap in the needs of the students. I don't want to hold any students back but I also have to "catch" students up to where they need to be. The best way for me to do this is to group them by their abilities and the skills that they have mastered. If anyone knows of a better way to do this I would love the input. I do believe that there has to be some sort of ability grouping within classrooms so that the needs of students can be met. I do not believe that these groups should remain the same throughout the school year. I feel that with assessments throughout the year the groups should change based on student progress. While I do see why schools would group whole grade levels based on ability I feel that it hurts students in more ways than we think. I also think it is very overwhelming for the teachers. Having a whole classroom of low students is extremely hard.

Thanks for your insight on ability grouping. It is definitely something to think about even as a Pre-K teacher.

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christy lee

We do ability grouping at my school. If it is done correctly, as in gifted students are together, I see a lot of positives. We tend to focus on the struggling and leave the exceptionally high to the side with the underlying factor that "they will be fine. they get it."

While I see positives and negatives to both sides, I also feel like heterogeneous groupings also have positive and negative points.

Even within an ability grouped classroom you will have to differentiate.

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kelly myers

I definitely think ability grouping has it's benefits. I am thinking more on the math side of things, when I say this, but with math they need to know the basics before they get to the hard stuff. In order for my lower students to move on to what my higher students are currently doing in math, they need to be in a smaller group at my table with students on their level learning the basics. And if my higher students are "bored" and ready for the more complex tasks, then they need to be challenged!

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Peaches Hash

Although this article made some strong points for struggling students, I saw little to no information on how grouping is negatively affecting the "high achieving" students. Too many times, students who excel in a subject are overtly grouped with low students to serve as "babysitters" and "peer tutors" while the teacher facilitates. The stronger students are not only distracted by immature behavior, but often do not get to work with anyone with the same skills set as themselves, thus stunting their growth. When will schools start trying to protect the learning environment of the 20+ students in the room who do their work and want to learn instead of the 5+ who need constant behavioral interventions? Students who read above grade level should still be challenged and not be asked to help their peers learn to read.

I did, however, learn at AP training this summer that there are more effective ways to group students than by ability level. My instructor told us that, no matter what grade or ability level, students should keep the same groups for an entire semester or unit to build community. Moreover, they should get to select their groups, or they should be chosen randomly. I was horrified to learn that I had wasted hours of my life trying to build "super groups" what would be focused. This year, I have been trying the advice and randomly assigning groups in front of students. They keep the groups for an entire unit (we have four a semester), and it has worked well for the first nine weeks. I doubt I will go back to the old way at this point!

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Whitney Bennett

I use ability grouping in my science class as a form of remediation and enrichment. I use my "experts" to help my struggling students for half the class period while I do small group intervention. After half the class is over, the experts do an enrichment activity while the others do a short formative assessment to monitor their progress. The experts are chosen every week based on formative assessment data. The students who answer all the questions correctly are my experts for the week. Any student can become an expert if they put forth the effort. I have found success in this method and it motivates my students. I can see how if the groups never changed it would discourage students, but when done properly I think ability grouping has merit.

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Moroesi Makape

I learned that grouping students together based on their ability, there is the possibility that some students will experience discomfort with being placed into a group that is considered a lower or higher learning level. Again, grouping also highlights the difference in cognitive abilities among students and can lead to feeling of isolation and separation from the larger group.

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Christine Davis

I enjoyed reading this article. My school does use ability groupings and we are not finding success with it. It is the "logical" way to look at learning, however, the success is not being shown. Many teachers do not know how to group their students. I plan to use common assessments weekly to help with groupings of students. We use spiral review now and it is not as effective as it could be. We are hoping to implement that more routinely and monitor it more effectively. This article provided more ideas to take back to my PLC.

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mallory newbrey

I have been teaching for 7 years, and am currently working in a master's program. I was recently asked to identify a concern in my classroom, and it was meeting the individual needs of the students in my classroom. I use differentiation and small group instruction to address this concern, and have been researching different ways in which to put students in to groups.

My question to you is how would you use a non-ability grouping in the area of reading with 5th grade students? I'm really focused on the selection they are reading for this question. We want to push our readers by having them read material that is at or just slightly above their reading level. How would you still do this if you had readers of all levels in your groups?
Thank you in advance!

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Christy Peralta

Thank you for posting! I agree that grouping students by levels decreases the students chances of performing at their highest potential. I will definitely consider alternating groups in classes.

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Melanie Swanson

How do you recommend districts start to move away form tracking?

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Angie Bailey

I teach 5th grade ELA and we do ability grouping for ELA and Math. What do you do when you have several students reading at a BR level and other students reading at a 7th grade level?

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Stephanie Robertson

This blog post definitely opened my eyes to the negative effects of ability grouping. I have never used ability grouping, but I was introduced to it when I was student teaching and it has been suggested in my grade level meetings before. Thank you to Jennifer for her great insights. I will be sharing this with the other members of my grade level team as to how we can meet the needs of all of our students on a daily basis.

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Moroesi Makape

There is a possibility that some students will experience discomfort with being placed into a group that is considered a lower or higher learning level. Again, grouping also highlights the difference in cognitive abilities among students and can lead to feeling of isolation and separation from the larger group.

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Nancy Summerour

I don't believe in ability grouping among a grade level (i.e. one teacher having the low, one teacher having the average, and then one teacher having the high). We mix abilities at our school. However, we have a flex time during the day where we do ability group and focus on what those groups need. In a true flex we would ability group across the grade, I don't really agree with that type of flex time. As a Kindergarten teacher it is hard to know where other kids who are not in my room all day are in terms of academics. In class I ability group according to who has mastered/not mastered a skill during small group time. I just feel ability grouping has way more negative impacts on a child, than not.

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Christine Davis

I really enjoyed reading this post. The use of formative assessments is really key in getting this to work well in an inclusive classroom, as well as other classrooms. I agree that ability grouping is not the way to go. My inclusion classroom had 27 students in it last year and 13 had IEPs (4 of which were significantly modified curriculums). There was no way to look at the situation without looking at ability. However, had we used more formative assessments, this might not have been the case. I look forward to using these this year!

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Tamara Short

I really enjoyed this article, so many great points. I was able to attend a conference this summer on literacy and even though I took away several strategies and tools to use within my classroom, the one strategy that stood out the most to me was it's not as important to group students by ability but by skill. Meaning you can group students by various reading abilities into one group if they are all working on a skill they are lacking, such as comprehension. This article has prompted me to take those same strategies and apply them to math. It is so true that students at different abilities can work together in and through the learning process. I would be interested in how long you have implemented this at this school and if you have noticed growth in all students through assessments? Thanks for sharing.

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Kathleen Meehan

Your story is a great example of why it is important for teachers to build relationships with students. Teachers do not always get to know what effect they have on a child but like Mrs. Dennis be the one person who makes that child feel important. So glad you had a Mrs. Dennis, and I hope every child out there will be lucky enough to have a teacher like Mrs. Dennis at least once in their time in school.

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Amy Masters

I enjoyed reading your article! I work in an inclusion classroom as the intervention specialist, alongside the general education classroom teacher. I have found that ability grouping has a negative effect on students, for many of the reasons you mentioned. Collaborating with other teachers we have found that grouping students together of all different abilities actually works best. When we do group work, we take great care and thought as to who is going to be placed in what group. Thanks for sharing!

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Tyrone Frierson

This was a very informative article about grouping of students by ability. I grew up in South Carolina when the students were grouped about academic ability. I remember in elementary school there were four levels: at risk, low, mid, and high achievers. Of course we didn't know the real reason for the four different classes at that age but it became clear in middle and high school. Then in middle and high school they have vocational track and college track. I had friends who were in the lower levels and they didn't have to complete the type of work we were doing or had a hard time moving up from those levels. I don't see how students can progress in the type of educational environment. I think have students of different ability levels as described by the educator from Virginia is the best option. This way the lower students can pick up skills for the higher students and maybe learn new work habits. I am a firm believer that sometimes students can pick up extra skills from observing their peers that teachers can't teach. Plus you can still have groupings inside the classroom based on assessments.

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stephanie hawkins

I really enjoyed your information on grouping students. Teaching using differentiation has often been a challenge. I would like to try the tiered tasks and alternate grouping this year. I hope that these work for my classroom. Thanks!

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David Hamlett

‘As needs’ ability grouping: The best of both worlds?

David J Hamlett

This paper describes a model for the delivery of a mathematics program that is intended to cater for the needs of all students. This model was developed from a desire to draw on the best aspects of both ‘mixed ability’ and ‘streamed’ classes to provide a balanced learning program. It is a synthesis of research literature regarding ability grouping, and the purposes of mathematics education within the Essential Learnings framework.
Although the model suggested in this document is not new, it is certainly not currently widespread in High School mathematics classrooms and deserves consideration by schools planning for the delivery of a Mathematics curriculum that is inclusive of the needs of all students and a belief that all students must be given the opportunity to succeed at a grade appropriate level.

Ability grouping
The issue of ability grouping in mathematics is a contentious one that is vigorously debated and serves to highlight some key tensions in teaching. In Australia formal ability grouping has almost disappeared from schools except in the case of Mathematics classes in secondary schools where the practice still has some advocates.

As Jill Cheeseman points out, these tensions include:
• the mathematical content defined by the curriculum as against the mathematics required by the student,
• needs of the individual as against the needs of the class,
• the need for each student to feel secure and for each student to feel challenged and
• the wish of the teachers to prepare different tasks to suit students and the wish to prepare a common task for the class.

It could be said that different groupings serve different purposes.
The case ‘against’ argues that, ‘grouping students by ability only perpetuates the continued use of methodologies which are teacher centred and take no account of research into how students think about, and learn mathematics’ (Coombes). Teachers tend to place different expectations on different ability groups, and apparently use different teaching strategies depending on the group. Consequently, students may be disadvantaged as a result of their placement in a particular group.
Furthermore, since ‘ability’ is ‘neither well-defined nor easily measured’ (Thornton), a range of factors may contribute to the decision to place a student in a particular ‘stream’.

In the United Kingdom, Boaler et al. (2000) found that although ability grouping provides a slight gain in attainment for students in the top group, it also promotes a considerably more rigid curriculum, and inflexible styles of teaching than in mixed ability classes. This can have a bad effect on students’ attitudes and motivation at both upper and lower levels.

In practice, ability grouping may reduce teachers’ expectations of students in bottom groups, while creating unrealistically high ones of the students in the top groups.
The case ‘for’ ability grouping typically argues that by reducing the range of abilities within a group of students, the teacher will be better able to plan lessons suited to that group (Thornton). As a consequence the more able students have an opportunity to excel and the less able have the opportunity to receive the support they require. Although research into the effect of ability grouping on academic attainment isn’t clear, there does seem to be some consensus that: when studies from a broad range of situations are considered, ability grouping leads to,
• on average, a higher level of student achievement in mathematics than mixed-ability grouping
• high achieving students benefit most strongly from ability grouping
• ability grouping increases the gap between the highest and lowest achievers (Thornton).

My local context – Tasmania Australia

In Tasmania, the issue of whether or not to stream in mathematics classes has typically been discussed in the context of grades 7 and 8. Although ability grouping in these grades is still quite prevalent, there seems to be a much greater preparedness to work with students in mixed ability classes. In grades 9 and 10, before 2010 the use of the Tasmanian Secondary Assessment Board (TASSAB) syllabuses has meant that the issue has become one of course selection. (Of course, small schools have always had to deal with not only mixed ability but also mixed age classes regardless.)

In life after the Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE), however, the National Curriculum Framework provides mathematics teachers with an opportunity to explore some ‘big questions’ regarding mathematics education and in particular how we might best support all students, particularly in terms of ‘Being numerate’.

Some of the ‘big questions’ that mathematics teachers in particular need to consider include:
• What are the essential mathematical skills, understandings and dispositions that we want all students to obtain by the end of secondary school? (What are the important ideas in mathematics?)
• In addition to the skills, understandings and dispositions that are essential for all students, how might we differentiate the needs of particular students and cohorts of students?
• For example, how (and when) do we best cater for students that go on to further study in mathematics (the pre-tertiary cohort)? Is it about what needs to be covered at high school, or what they need to understand so that they can pick up new ideas more quickly when required?
• What are the implications of Teaching, Learning and Assessment Principles on the way that mathematics is taught?
• How might a school best be structured to teach for a deep understanding of mathematics?
• How can mathematics best contribute to deep understanding beyond mathematics
• What is an appropriate balance between mathematical thinking embedded within an inquiry-based context and dedicated mathematics instruction?
• Do we support ability grouping or not?
The proposed model
It is proposed that the most beneficial grouping structure for students is one that not only supports mixed-ability classes but also enables students to be re-grouped as required.

As Cheeseman explains,
I think the key to this question is not to limit our thinking to one option or the other but to consider the place of ability groupings for the purposes they achieve and the use of mixed ability groups for the features that they offer to the skilled mathematics teachers. I would therefore argue against any school system that locks teachers into ability grouping or prohibits ability groupings. … Use ability groups from time to time to target specific students with particular needs. At other times use heterogeneous groupings so that the potential for mathematical development is the same for all.
For example, each year group in the author’s school comprises either 8 or 9 heterogenous home groups. Each morning, 100 minutes is allocated for ‘Communications’. For grades 7 and 8 this is an integrated program that replaces mathematics and English. For most grade 9 and 10 classes, however, this remains as separate mathematics and English (for the time being at least), but with each grade’s mathematics classes held simultaneously.

The following steps describe an approach that could be used within this school to cater for ‘as needs’ ability grouping:
1. In collaborative planning sessions based arounbd PLC’s the teachers responsible for each grade determine the overarching understanding goals (i.e. throughlines) for the course and the evidences required to demonstrate these understandings. It may be appropriate at this stage to differentiate between the outcomes that are intended for all students and the ‘optional extras’ (e.g. for the pre-tertiary cohort).
2. For each ‘big idea’ within the course (e.g. throughline, generative topic), the teachers select and/or develop an inquiry-based unit that is suitable for a mixed-ability class.
3. Students work through the unit in mixed-ability classes. As the unit progresses, a proportion of the students who have achieved the standard at the highest gradation could be catered for in a targeted program. A different teacher could offer this each time, with their students being split across the other classes for the remainder of the unit.

Once teachers and students are familiar with this structure, it naturally offers the flexibility to run remedial, extension, or enrichment programs. For example, an extension program could be used to cover manipulative algebra for potential pre-tertiary students after a descriptive algebra unit for all students.
Although there is likely to be a core group of students involved in all extension groups, there should be an opportunity for different students to participate each time according to individual strengths and interests. A student who struggles with most areas of mathematics may have a gift for spatial problems.
With some imagination, programs could be offered that deal with a particular skill or big idea in a fun context (e.g. a ‘Football Fever’ unit that addresses basic number skills). With more imagination and some careful planning, each teacher could offer a course that provides opportunities for students to achieve the same standards, but in a different engaging context.

Furthermore, given that all classes are on together, it may not be necessary to confine students to particular classrooms at all times even while working on the same unit. For example, if classrooms are adjacent, then it may be possible for students to rotate through a series of learning stations
(e.g. investigate a scenario using:
1) manipulatives in one classroom,
2) software in the computer laboratory,
3) cooperative group work and report writing in another classroom).
What is required to make it work?
This model has much potential, and for successful implementation would need to have a number of elements in place.
These include:
• Time for collaborative planning is necessary to establish a structured learning sequence that explicitly covers the agreed overarching and within unit understanding goals.
• Likewise, rubrics around achievement of these understanding goals will need to be determined and used to inform a common understanding of assessment.
• Teachers developing teaching strategies that teach for deep understanding and cater for mixed abilities.
• To allow for flexibility in groupings, classes need to be timetabled in blocks. This is already occurring in schools, including for example those pursuing middle school approaches.
• Teaching for understanding requires teachers who can lead students to a deep understanding of purposeful mathematics. Depending on the whole school structure, a consequence of ‘blocked classes’ may be that more teachers will need to be equipped to teach Mathematics than otherwise. For example, if it is decided that explicit teaching for Mathematics should be held first each day, then as many teachers as there are classes will be required.
Thornton, S. (unknown). Ability grouping: the case ‘for’. Retrieved 9 March 2004, from the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) web site:
Boaler, J., William, D. & Brown, M. (2000). Students’ experiences of ability grouping – disaffection, polarisation and the construction of failure. Retrieved 5 March 2004, from The Standards Site:
Cheeseman, J. (unknown). Ability grouping: A response. Retrieved 9 March 2004, from the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) web site:
Coombes, C. (unknown). Ability grouping: the case ‘against’. Retrieved 9 March 2004, from the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) web site:
Learning, Teaching and Assessment Guide, Department of Education Tasmania:
Maths 300 Curriculum Corporation:

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