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Mixed Ability / Setting

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by iainmacdonald86, Dec 12, 2015.

  1. iainmacdonald86

    iainmacdonald86 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I'm relatively new to the forum so I hope you don't mind me asking a question of you all.

    I'm currently doing my initial teacher training at University and I have an assignment coming up which is of my own choosing so I've decided to look at mixed ability grouping. I'm currently looking at the debate as a whole, whether teacher prefer/pupils benefit from set classes of mixed ability classes. It would be great to hear your opinions.

    For the paper itself, I'm narrowing it down to 'how to motivate higher ability pupils to engage when working in mixed ability groups'. This stemmed from my first placement in a mixed ability school and finding, at times, higher ability pupils feeling disenfranchised when working in groups. Although I differentiated work, at times they didn't feel inspired to engage when they saw others getting away with doing much less.

    I'd be delighted if you could share your thoughts on the topic. Of course, if I feel using your comments in my final report appropriate, I will ask your permission.

  2. strawbs

    strawbs Established commenter

    secondary maths teacher of 20years experience - setting setting setting! would leave my school if they insisted on mixed ability. works best for all abilities IMO. still need to differentiate within classes, and must have flexibility of moving pupils up/down sets
  3. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    The trick is not to allow others to get away with doing less.
    And you need to make the distinction between mixed ability group work and set/streamed/mixed ability classes.
  4. iainmacdonald86

    iainmacdonald86 New commenter

    Thank you. It's a mixed ability class and a mixed ability group within that class.
  5. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Then think about why you choose to group them that way. You can have a mixed ability class who sometimes work in ability groups. Targeting the task to the pupil is how you ensure everyone is working hard and nobody coasting. if you decide to use mixed ability groups you can give each member a role. Some of these will be more intellectually challenging but all will need to participate for the group to function properly. To be honest, I think this is more about how you manage group work than about mixed ability!
  6. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    As an English teacher, I would be horrified if I was asked to turn my dept. into a mixed ability groupings. We teach in form tutor groups in year 7, but that's because the units are there to make sure all students are competent in KS3 English.

    Could you even imagine trying to teach Pride and Prejudice to half a class that is on As and others on Ds for Literature? I think it makes it that much harder for English since half the texts on specs are designed to be more challenging for the higher attaining pupils, and there's some texts that are chosen for the weaker students. This is how it should be.

    From my experience (of only ever teaching ability sets) it works better for you and the pupils to go at their own pace. If everybody is at the same pace it's fine. Of course, you get the odd pupils that find their set too easy and that's fine - do a quick assessment and put them in a higher set if that's possible.

    Since tier papers have gone, I do suppose it makes it easier to teach mixed ability groups as you can approach texts in any way, from basic level to higher attaining levels.

    But for me personally, it works better with ability groups. I also find it fun mixing up my timetables year-on-year. What teacher would mind teaching the exact same thing every year?!
    jarndyce likes this.
  7. amazingpurplecow

    amazingpurplecow New commenter

    I deal with mixed abilities groups in Design Technology and Engineering. There is often comment made that the reality is that the highly able miss out (especially if you pair low ability with high ability) as they are less likely to debate topics with another HA and will end up just supporting the D grade students to understand very basic concepts.

    However given the hard to reach boys that I usually teach seating plans are often based on behaviour, as a necessity and for safety reasons.
  8. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    I think that the pedagogy of each subject has an impact on the type of groupings which most effectively support learning. In my subject (English) mixed ability teaching effectively supports the pedagogy of the subject. Unfortunately, the very narrow curriculum and current understanding of our subject is such that setting by ability appears to be the norm. It seems popular with teachers because they cannot envisage teaching in a less controlled environment where pupils learn at their own pace towards a common goal.
  9. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    [QUOTE="VeronicAmb, post: What teacher would mind teaching the exact same thing every year?![/QUOTE]

    Me! I'd hate it. Each and very class (whether set by ability or mixed) is different and needs unique teaching.
  10. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    Me! I'd hate it. Each and very class (whether set by ability or mixed) is different and needs unique teaching.[/QUOTE]
    Haha, it was sarcasm! I would mind it too! I would hate it also!
  11. redlamp2

    redlamp2 Occasional commenter

    Done well, the peer supported learning approach is really good. But it depends on really good teachers, and even good teachers with the current workloads will have difficulty doing it well.

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