Ability grouping is a common practice in today’s classrooms, which involves using intelligence tests to place individuals in certain academic groups with others whom have the same abilities. Two types of ability grouping include between-class and within-class grouping, which provide both benefits and hindrances in a classroom setting.
When a school or teacher groups students “based on their ability or achievement,” the school is practicing between-class ability grouping (Santrock 125). In many cases, between-class ability grouping is used in a high school setting as a way to group students with similar goals and skills. On the surface, between-class ability grouping appears that it benefits all students because it allows teachers to better teach students in a more focused manner. However, researchers have determined that this form of grouping harms those that are in a lower ability group (125). Recently, when I was helping out at a lower achieving high school this form of grouping was clearly evident. Students were clearly divided into classrooms based on their abilities. Each classroom was going over the same material but each classroom teacher was teaching the material differently to meet the needs of that group of students. The history classroom that was deemed an advanced placement class worked a lot smoother and the students had a good understanding of the subject as well as appropriate behavior. However, the “average” history
classes were a tad more chaotic and the students had little to no interest in the subject. This
instance I witnessed showed how between-class ability grouping benefits those on a “higher track” and leaves those on the lower classes behind. Those students in a “low track” classes are commonly of a minority background creating greater controversy.
The second type of ability grouping is called within-class ability grouping. This form of grouping is used in elementary schools in which a classroom teacher divides the students into two or three groups based on student ability (126). This type of grouping is less controversial than between-class grouping but that may be due to less research. In this type of grouping a teacher may divide children into groups depending on subject matter. This makes it easier for the teacher to teach but may have adverse effects on the overall classroom. Within-class ability grouping like between-class benefits those in the higher group, leaving those students behind to struggle if they do not obtain the proper support. This can create a tension among students as well as an inner struggle within those that are placed on a slower pace.
Although between-class and within-class ability grouping has many benefits, a teacher needs to take into account that many adverse reactions can arise especially for those students placed in a group that is not working at a faster pace.
With the many types of intelligence tests, also come many theories. Two theorists that have outlined their own...