5 Benefits of Ability Grouping in the Classroom

Although ability grouping is similar to tracking, it differs in many important ways, the most important of which being that it focuses on classroom and more temporary settings. Conversely, tracking is more all-encompassing, placing students into entirely different groups for years at a time and generally making it difficult to break out of that track.

Ability Grouping Keeps More Advanced Students Busy

When all students are presented with the same material, it is natural for some of them to finish quickly, some to finish in an average amount of time and some to need to take an extensive period of time to complete their work. With ability grouping, students of all abilities are kept busy doing their respective assignments, allowing those who are having trouble with this particular subject more ability to focus free of distractions as well as not feeling inferior as their bored classmates show off, directly or indirectly, that they are already finished.

No More Teaching to the Middle

The traditional classroom setting, which involves teachers focusing their lessons on the perceived average learning ability of the classroom, leaves roughly two-thirds of the students dissatisfied. When ability grouping is not used, about a third of the class will learn the material quickly and be bored while another third or so will remain confused and need more attention in order to grasp what is being taught. Of course, if the latter group is then given that needed attention, that puts the average students at a disadvantage too. However, ability grouping provides a means to keep all of the students engaged.

Gifted Students in That Subject Are Challenged

In a traditional setting, those who learn the material faster are then often left with a period of time that is spent not increasing their knowledge of that or any other subject. However, ability grouping provides them with the ability to use that time to learn that subject matter more fully. In fact, many proponents of this method of teaching believe that “high-achieving children do better if paired with other high-achieving students.” Some also believe that a focus for many educators on the No Child Left Behind Act has left gifted students with fewer opportunities to be challenged and reach their own potentials.

It Is Flexible as Compared to Tracking

One of the biggest advantages of ability grouping is that it is only focused on a specific class or even a particular lesson. In other words, students do not have to feel trapped in a certain track as is oftentimes the case when tracking is utilized. For example, if a student is an outstanding mathematician but sometimes has trouble finding his or her voice in English class, then being placed in different groups in those two classes will cause this student to get the most value out of both experiences.

It Is Flexible Within a Class

For example, say a student has a brilliant part of his or her mind that allows multiplication tables to be quickly memorized. However, that same student may have a really difficult time grasping how fractions work, including when those are multiplied as well as added, subtracted and divided. This child could then be placed in one group as far as multiplication tables go and a different one for working with fractions. The same can be true for somebody who understands textbooks but has difficulty grasping and discussing a novel’s themes.

Fortunately, this teaching method has proven to be beneficial for several reasons. However, it is important to use ability grouping in a way that allows students to easily transition between groups due to their progress and performances within their current groups so that they realize all of this method’s potential.

See also: Top 10 Best Online Master of Arts in Teaching Degree Programs