A Guide to Mixed-Ability Grouping

In mixed-ability grouping, school children of differing capabilities are educated at the same pace, in the same class. It creates equal expectations for all the students in the class and offers them the same resources. While teachers often find it difficult to fulfill the individual needs of students with different capabilities, there’re some guiding principles that can help them out.

Giving students the chance to discuss texts as a diverse group isn’t only a matter of equity but one of enhancing learning outcomes as well. Sometimes, engaging in a task with a peer who has developed a thorough understanding of the text becomes the greatest support. Teachers should try to generate more opportunities for students to help them engage in those rich academic discussions. Technology can support those discussions by providing more students with the opportunity to participate and giving them more time to express their thinking. Teachers can also expand discussion time by giving them the tools to respond to each other.

Higher-order thinking isn’t a privilege only limited to high-achieving students. Higher-order thinking offers benefits in terms of engagement and motivation. Typically, higher-level questions are more interesting for students and offer more interesting answers. These lead to debate and discussion because they’re more open to interpretation. These questions sometimes become easier for struggling students because they come with the flexibility to choose from different methods to answer and justify one’s reasoning. By encouraging students to explore the same content and answer the same questions, teachers can share the benefits of higher-order thinking among all students.

Often, the lack of background knowledge acts as a major roadblock to comprehension. Students need a fundamental level of context to make sense of rigorous texts. Every writer makes references to terms, concepts, and events that they expect the readers to know. A student, who lacks basic comprehension, wouldn’t be able to find meaning in the text, even if they apply every expert reading strategy. Letting students access a text-to-speech tool, a translation tool, and a digital dictionary can remedy several reading challenges faced by them. The key is to make hearing or looking up words as accessible as possible so they don’t have to interrupt the flow of the text to search an external resource. Some reading platforms can also embed videos and images inside the text to provide the students with a visual aid as they try to make sense of scientific processes or literary scenes.

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