Mixed-ability teaching

(69 Posts)
HelpOneAnother Mon 10-Dec-12 10:07:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cricketballs Mon 10-Dec-12 23:02:40

I previously applauded the use of mixed ability groups for all the reasons stated above but I have changed my thinking on this issue...

I teach what is normally a mixed ability subject. I really thought that I was differentiating to all abilities until the timetable meant that my groups were set (maths settings due to the timetable issues). This was the first time I truly saw how low the lowest ability actually were (it also helped that as they were the lowest ability group it was much smaller) as they had no where to hide and had no one hiding their true ability as they weren't receiving the help from another student.

I am again teaching mixed ability groups (in a different school) and this year I have a year 7 group whose target grades range from a level 2 up to level 7 in the same class. I honestly don't feel that I am serving all the students in this class to the best learning I should be offering them as I am so focused on ensuring my level 2 can access the work and that the level 7s are being pushed (which takes a lot of planning) that my middle students are in the main being ignored - how fair is this on all my students? I'm not sure how long I can keep up the workload required for this 1 group with such a wide range of ability.

I have voiced my concerns to SLT about this especially as we are due Ofsted at any time and I know that if they came into this lesson it would fail dramatically

LoopsInHoops Tue 11-Dec-12 03:15:16

Loops - you seem to be asserting that high achieving pupils are used by teachers to help the disruptive pupils behave and to drag up the middle achievers. What about that situation benefits high achievers?

Not at all, but that a culture of learning is more likely to take place in a mixed group than a low set. I agree, the high achievers are not the ones who benefit from this.

Interstingly, I work in a school where some subjects are not set but grouped by gender, which appears to work really well.

noblegiraffe Tue 11-Dec-12 08:34:54

Thing is, if setting benefits high achievers but mixed ability benefits middle and low ability (as the evidence appears to show) then if you are going by the greatest good, you have to go for mixed ability. Obviously parents of high achievers won't be happy with that!

APMF Tue 11-Dec-12 08:52:24

In the words of Spock :-) the needs of the many are sometimes outweighed by the needs of the few. Well, the needs of my 'few' outweigh the needs of the 'many'

wordfactory Tue 11-Dec-12 08:54:49

I'm not keen on mixed ability teaching after about year 3, so I would avoid any school that didn't set flexibly at secondary.

If selective schools set within their already narrowed-down ability range, why on earth would comprehensives think this a good idea?

wordfactory Tue 11-Dec-12 08:58:18

noble mixed ability only benefits the middle achievers if you don't stretch too far. If you take the class as far as the highest achievers, the middle group will not benefit. And god help the lower ability pupils.

By keeping the class work at a level that will benefit the middle achievers, you are holding back the high achievers. How can that be beneficial to our society as a whole?

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Tue 11-Dec-12 09:09:00

This thread does little to combat the widely held belief that British state education encourages a culture of mediocrity.

wordfactory Tue 11-Dec-12 09:40:05

TBF richman I think many comprehensives do set properly...but it's a matter of luck if you live near one. Somehting you have no control of.

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 09:43:41

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seeker Tue 11-Dec-12 09:54:48

In my ds's school they are set quite rigorously for science, maths, English, languages and sport (not sure what that last one's about) In humanities, the plenary lesson is whole class (mixed ability)- then they are put into groups with differentiated work to do. I was very sceptical, but it does seem to work if the teacher is very capable and on the ball. I know there is an eye watering range of ability in the class.

In my experience, grammar schools only set for maths. I suppose because it would be impossible to run a useful plenary session in maths where there was a massive range of ability, which there tends to be in maths.

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 10:02:56

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phlebas Tue 11-Dec-12 10:06:56

my dd's school only set for maths.

They have a progress group for English which is for children working below level 4. The rest is mixed ability - from "working towards" level 3 right up to 6a/7. They have all lost an hour a week of MFL - including dd & others who are working at & above 6a for English - because such a large number of children have come up from primary school "not knowing what a verb is" so there is now an hour of basic literacy. There is NO differentiation in that class & is a complete waste of time for the more able children. I can't think of any positives for my dd.

seeker Tue 11-Dec-12 10:30:55

If there is no differentiation in the classroom, then you should be in the HT's doorstep as soon as you can get there qnd refuse to move until s/he does something about it.

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 10:31:01

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noblegiraffe Tue 11-Dec-12 10:38:34

The reason schools set for maths in particular is because in maths it is very difficult to differentiate by outcome. In English, you could set the whole class the same essay and have different success criteria for different groups of students, e.g. the higher ability might concentrate on use of persuasive language, the lower on adjectives (no idea really as I'm a maths teacher, but you get the idea). In history the top might have a target of identifying and discussing 3 causes of WWII, the bottom, one. In maths it's very difficult to set all students the same task as some will be working on trigonometry, some on adding decimals. Hence setting, so that you can give the different groups different inputs.

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 10:50:30

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HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 10:59:44

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seeker Tue 11-Dec-12 11:03:00

"The problems are if the student is at either end of the ability range."

My limited experience seems to suggest that it's worse for the lower ability end. As long as there are enough higher ability kids to form a viable group, they need guidance but also feed off each other. The lower ability kids need far more support, and often seem to feed off each other in a negative rather than a positive way.

chloe74 Tue 11-Dec-12 11:12:01

Seems to be a typical English attitude that clever kids should be dragged down, so they all are equal in mediocrity (or worse). Where has the belief gone that all should reach for the stars.

Unless we maximize our strengths instead of equalizing our weaknesses then this country is doomed to be an average little state of no importance in the world. After a decade of such pathetic leadership England seems to have almost lost the will to live.

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 11:13:22

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HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 11:15:29

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seeker Tue 11-Dec-12 11:16:52

"Seems to be a typical English attitude that clever kids should be dragged down, so they all are equal in mediocrity (or worse). Where has the belief gone that all should reach for the stars. "

I find it baffling that people keep on saying things like this despite the fact that there are other people all around saying that that is not what is happening in their children's classroom........!

TheWave Tue 11-Dec-12 11:28:06

Only setting for Maths in my children's comp, seems to differentiate all right at every level including the top end, where they are all aiming for personal goals A* etc.

I dislike the thought that others think their "clever" children are being used to moderate behaviour, that could be a side-effect but is not being used or abused imho. The benefits are that all classes are moving along at a reasonable pace and all children (higher or lower ability) have quietish classes to work in at their own levels.

Quietish classes mean that the teachers can teach all children, which is fair. Makes the potentially disruptive children spread through the classes and therefore the teachers can manage that, rather than all in one set at the bottom (potentially, don't want to generalise).

In Yr 10 they choose different subject of course, so there tends to be more "clever" children in the more difficult subject classes (triple science for example).

HelpOneAnother Tue 11-Dec-12 11:40:21

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LettyAshton Tue 11-Dec-12 11:42:18

Ds is at a comprehensive. He has been set for English for the first time in Year 10. He is enjoying English much more as he says the discussions are more lively and everyone engages. He says there has never been any disruption in any of his classes, but it's just that pupils' abilities vary.

Apparently in his class all pupils read a set book in advance and then come to the lesson to discuss/study, whereas in other classes they all read the book through with the teacher.

Ds says that he fervently wishes they were set for Games and PE as it is a nightmare when all the sporty ones are forever groaning at the efforts of their less able peers. If only this had happened 30 years ago too!

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