The Benefits of Flexible Grouping

Flexible grouping is a teaching strategy in which learners are grouped to receive advanced instruction. Flexible grouping is a data-driven practice. You can utilize data you already have on hand to group and regroup learners to meet their evolving needs. A crucial component of flexible grouping is that while all learners work toward the same learning goal, the work addresses learners’ varying learning needs. The work is engaging and essential for all learners, but the task or how they show what they’ve learned may look different for each group. In this article, we will look at the benefits of flexible grouping for educators.

Benefits for Learners

They are not being pigeonholed. Flexible grouping allows for regrouping for distinct content areas. That’s beneficial to learners who learn and think differently because they may have challenges in some content areas and not others. For instance, a learner who struggles with reading but not math can be grouped with other learners who have similar reading support needs. That learner can then be regrouped for math.

Learners are valued. Learners bring their skills, talents, and life experiences to the group. In flexible groups, learners see that everyone adds value to the learning community. This mirrors the culturally responsive teaching philosophy of identifying learners’ assets and utilizing them to create learner-centered instruction. Working in learner-led groups means that non-educational strengths, like leadership skills, are essential, too.

A sense of ownership. With flexible grouping, learners also develop ownership of and responsibility for their learning. This is good preparation for higher education or work, where teams often rely on people’s differing skill sets to manage distinct assignments in a project.

Language practice. Flexible grouping is also particularly beneficial. This gives them additional chances to interact with classmates who speak English fluently and practice the educational and interpersonal language. Learners can also be placed in groups with other peers who speak the same home language. Then they can discuss content or ideas before sharing their ideas in English.

Benefits for Educators

They are developing a team-oriented environment. Flexible grouping helps build a positive culture in your class. Knowledge and practice become more fluid as learners are constantly learning from others in the room instead of just relying on you.

Opportunities for learners to practice academic skills. Flexible grouping is a way to provide more support without having to find the time or change your daily schedule to pull learners aside. In small groups, you can give learners practice opportunities at their instructional level and increased feedback.

Opportunities to collect data. Since flexible grouping depends on data, it also gives you a routine for data collection. When learners are working in groups, you can collect observational data and more formalized data. For instance, you may ask learners to take pictures of their work at the beginning, middle, and end of the lesson.

The data can help you make immediate modifications to your instruction at the moment. This also helps you tailor your future instruction, including switching up your groups the next day. For instance, let’s say you’re grouping learners for literacy time. Some learners are working on learning vowel sounds, and you’ve identified a few are having trouble with /a/, while others are having trouble with /i/.

You can target your instruction by developing homogeneous groups based on the tricky vowel. At the same time, you have learners who are beginning to learn about making inferences. Since this is a new academic skill, you can utilize heterogeneous groups to collaborate on the skill and learn from each other. With both situations, you’re able to create a dynamic that avoids the stigma of being pulled aside for small group instruction.

Can you think of any additional benefits of flexible grouping for learners and educators? Can you think of anything that we missed? If so, post them in the comment section below.

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