Grouping Strategies in Middle School

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

In this lesson, we will discuss various grouping strategies that can be used in the middle school classroom. We will explore the merits of heterogeneous and homogeneous grouping, and we'll go over several other suggestions for grouping students.

The Problem With Group Work

A more accurate heading for this section would be 'the problems with group work,' because, well, there are more than a few. Yes, we know that many middle school students enjoy working in groups because it allows them to be creative and also allows them to do the talking for once (rather than the teacher). However, many teachers just don't like to use groups in their classrooms because the following things can happen:

1. One person in the group ends up doing most of the work.

2. The students end up talking the whole time and don't get much done.

3. When students choose their own groups, they gravitate to the same two or three people all the time.

Get the picture? It doesn't have to be that way, though. When students are working in groups or participating in cooperative learning, great things can happen! Not only can hidden talents be uncovered, but good quality work can come out of it, too.

Heterogeneous Vs. Homogeneous Grouping

So which is better: heterogeneous groups, where students of different ability levels work together, or homogeneous groups, where students of similar abilities work together? About 35 or 40 years ago, educators believed that homogeneous groups were best. Entire classes were composed of students who shared approximately the same ability levels. However, back in the early 1990s, the school of thought on that changed, and heterogeneous grouping became the norm. Educators believed that students who had greater ability levels could help those who didn't.

As it turns out, neither school of thought was 'wrong.'

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