Mixed-Ability Grouping: Advantages & Disadvantages

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  • 0:03 What Is Mixed-ability…
  • 0:59 What Are the Advantages?
  • 2:02 What Are the Disadvantages?
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Hemmons

Beth has taught early childhood education, including students with special needs, for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education.

Today's classrooms are diverse and contain many levels of learners. In this lesson, we'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of mixed-ability grouping.

What Is Mixed-Ability Grouping?

You have 23 students in your third grade class. Each student has a unique maturity level, strengths, needs, and social abilities. In past years, you've grouped your class based on abilities. Your high-level students were in one group and your lower-level students were in a different group. Your ESL students had their own group, as well as your average-level students. This seems to work out because all of your students' needs are being met. But are they really? Recent studies have shown that ability grouping can actually be holding your students back.

A recent trend is mixed-ability grouping, or grouping students with all different abilities together. For example, you may create a mixed-ability group by grouping students of different ages, language levels, or academic levels. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach, which we'll discuss in this lesson.

What Are the Advantages?

There are several benefits of using mixed-ability grouping. Students who are placed in groups with mixed abilities benefit because they are grouped with other students who are not like themselves. This allows for the opportunity to learn about and accept differences. Mixed-ability grouping is great for discussion purposes and getting others' perspectives on things. It also helps students to understand each other better by increasing interaction among students who may not otherwise get the opportunity to interact. This can promote tolerance and the understanding and acceptance of differences.

In academics, higher-level students can help to push lower-level students further by modeling and encouraging them. This builds higher-level students' skills in consolidating information and mentoring others. It also exposes lower-level students to some of the higher-level thinking questions and problem-solving skills they might not observe if they remained in a low-level group. Also, working in a mixed-ability group builds self-confidence academically and socially, along with patience and kindness.

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