Mixed ability teaching(49 Posts)
At our secondary the new yr7s have been set for maths & science by their KS2 sats results. They are being tested in maths this week to check this. English will be mixed ability until Yr9 (with the very poor being given help in class ,or removed for extra help. French, history & geography will be set in year 8. Music is set in some way in year 7, but not sure how! Everything else is in mixed ability groups.
this is an interesting one - i suppose the theory behind mixed ability teaching is that the bright kids pull the weak ones up - IMO the reverse happens - well - the naughty/disaffected kids pull the middle down to their level the bright kids will be fine anyway and the seriously weak kids will be lost - so depends what ability range your child is in - if at top will be fine, if quite weak might benefit from setting and if liable to be 'led' (!) may benefit from setting. of course the flipside is that some kids feel 'labelled for life' - go into sets in year 7 based on primary performance and don't have chance to move - tho a good school should be able to identify these kids. and if your child is a good hard working middle ability pupil then there is always the risk that they get stuck in an awful middle set.... thats probably not much help is it???!! sorry - a lot depends on the school, the staff and the 'type' of kids.... just my opinion tho - lots of fellow teachers will DISAGREE!!!!!
My dd is in year 9. Put in sets for maths, english, science, french and P.E. I thought it was common not to have sets for history and geography but will be interested when a teacher comes along. No problems with history or geography but of course i don't really know if it would have been better to have sets iyswim.
My children's secondary school sets in Maths, English, French/German, science and history/geography. DT and PE are in mixed-ability groups taken from their side of the year, everything else is in tutor groups.
No Yr7 groups are set until Oct/Nov when maths groups are set, from then until about Easter of Yr7 the other sets are formed.
Agree with paulajayne. Its a negative thing for bright kids.
DD is in yr 10 and is losing all interest and motivation in two important subjects due to being in a mixed ablity class. She has actually come home crying because she hasnt been able to do any work
It is also a negative for weaker children and those in the middle. I think that mixed ability for history and geography isn't too important until GCSE though.
It depends on the intake of the school. If it's truely comprehensive but successful, mixed ability teaching with the right teachers could be excellent. In many cases though, there won't be an appropriate challenge for all pupils and poor behaviour of some will affect lessons.
It's a noble ideal, but in practice these days I think setting works best.
My dd's comp started off setting for English & Maths & added other subjects gradually: I think pretty much everything was set by Y9, including P.E., which I think is a great idea - those who were competing for teams could play against others of the same standard, while the ones like my DD who were in the bottom set didn't feel that anyone was laughing at them.
Having gone through the first ever year of comprehensive education in the town I was living in at the time, at a school which interpreted "comprehensive" as meaning mixed ability classes - no setting allowed - right through the school, I'd run a mile from the prospect of sending ds to a school which did things that way. That was not far off 30 years ago though, so I guess things may be a little different now!
DCs' school have a set for maths, english then a third set for all other subjects in yr 7, then in yr 8 there is a bit more of a mix up for MFL.
If streams or sets are completely flexible IMO it's ok. Also teachers should believe that all children may be capable of far more, irrespective of set and continually look to stretch and expand those in their group. In our schools the top sets often get the best resources/teachers, those that are not going to make the C often get the PE or cookery teacher who also teaches maths. My experience in schools shows that the lower sets often have the highest concentration of difficult behaviour.
Ideally class sizes would be small enough so that the curriculum could be rolled out to the individual child. This is what happens in our local non- selective prep with great results. I also read somewhere that the biggest variable that made the most difference as regards mixed ability teaching or setting was not the method which was chosen but whether the teachers who had to implement the system believed in it or not. Streaming gets the best results with teachers that believe in streaming and the same goes for mixed ability teaching.
Celia and others here sound as if they have barcoded children by 11. We decided who is 'bright' and who is 'weak' very early. Once a child is deemed 'bright' this decision is rarely rescinded, a 'dim' or 'weak' child is highly unlikely to be re-categorised as 'bright'. A 'weak' child that improves is likely to be credited with a surge of hard work or similar to explain an unexpected improvement in performance. I think this is so potentially damaging and it is so widespread. The dice is loaded against a rather 'weak' or 'dim' child beginning secondary school, a good score on a new test might be a fluke, the school may err on the side of caution when setting even if new results look promising etc.
This is why I wish that primary school teachers would think in terms of current attainment rather than ability. This would change the landscape psychologically, then all children then have a chance to surprise them. I know many Reception teachers who have decided who is 'bright' by 4 or 5 and this label will stay with the child throughout their time in primary, a bit like their eye or hair colour. If a teacher thinks that currently a child surpasses many of their peers in a certain subject area this is fine but to believe they have a set superior intellect is wrong and damaging.
I am not a fan of mixed ability teaching at all. Particularly in large classes.
However setting must be flexible (ie you can be in set A for maths, B for French and C for science) and teachers must regularly reassess and move pupils within the sets.
It's a phenomenal amount of work from the teacher's perspective- which cannot realistically always be maintained. Thus, whilst I love the idea in principal, it ends up being a real faff. It certainly gets rid of behaviour problems (or at least waters them down loads) and creates a lovely atmosphere but, yeah, it's the brightest/ most ambitious lot who suffer. Going to agree with the other teachers and just add that it pushes everybody towards the middle, because it does actually drag the lower ability kids up
Actually, going to add an example: my husband. He was taught in mixed ability sets to GCSE and basically, his results are average- fair smattering of Cs and some nice Bs.
He got three As for A-level, a first at degree level and now has a PhD. Certainly, his GCSE results do not reflect his later grades.
DD is in Yr9, and is taught in mixed ability sets for everything except Maths and Science. She loves her Maths and Science classes because she actually gets to work. In all her other subjects she is extremely frustrated at the amount of time wasted by the constant low-level behaviour issues - talking, throwing stuff around the class, arguing with the teacher etc - as well as the lack of differentiated work available for her and the two or three other motivated pupils in the class. I don't blame the teachers, I am about to start a secondary PGCE myself and the thought of having to teach a Yr9 class with children working at every NC Level from 2 to 8 makes my blood run cold. But this is what happens in many schools, and I believe it does a huge disservice to the vast majority of their pupils.
I teach Performing Arts. All my classes are mixed ability - even at KS4. Perhaps it's the subject, but I prefer it tbh. I can group children by ability within the class, if I want to, or can use mixed ability groups to help "weaker" students develop their confidence. With the Yr 10/11 classes, I actually find it helps - lower ability students are pulled up by the higher ability ones, IYSWIM, as they are keen to make whatever performance they're working on as good as it can be. My current Yr 10 class has a really nice dynamic, and I've seen weaker students develop enormously over the year. I teach a BTEC rather than GCSE though, so no exam to worry about. For the last 3 years, we've had 100% A*-C at KS4.
Teaching drama to a whole class of lower ability KS3 students is very very difficult. I disagree that the higher ability students suffer in mixed ability classes - but as I said, perhaps a practical subject like mine is different to say, Maths or English. At my school, KS3 students are setted for Maths, English and Science only. KS4 similarly, though some option subjects are also setted, depending on how many classes there are of each subject (small school)
I've never heard of any school doing mixed ability for all subjects. Maths, English and Science surely need to be taught in sets so as not to disadvantage the weakest or the brightest?
eatyourveg - our local secondary school sets only for maths which is why we are considering private for secondary.
does sound a bit worrying woodrose - do they offer any sort of explanation? is there only one local school? Would you consider travelling to the next town or would you not get a place.
ds3 is at a private school where they are set for everything save PE, the school is small so it works but I can envisage a timetabling nightmare in a huge secondary. At ds3's school you might get a child who is in top set English, bottom set Maths, top set History bottom set Geography, middle set Science, top set IT, middle set RE etc etc - it all depends where your particular strengths and difficulties lie.
even ds2's special school have sets for english maths and science where all the pupils have learning difficulties
The school advocates mixed abilty teaching because, in their view, it helps less able students. More able students are helped because they have to really understand the material in order to explain it to their struggling classmates.
DC's primary school has a similar philosophy and my DS has suffered as a consequence. Apart from boredom and the lack of any extension for the more able pupils, he has been punched and kicked most Thursdays because this the day on which his class has their timed timestable competition. Invariably, DS is the fastest and this has lead to him becoming a target for a couple of children who are struggling with maths.
There is another local school which sets for everything, including PE. However, it is massively oversubscribed so it is unlikely that DC would get a place. The other options in our Borough are dire.
DD's school streams the children into ability forms for everything. Then they are streamed into smaller ability sets for individual subjects.
I was a bit shocked at first, as I really do not see the need for this, especially in Y7. However, it appears that she has made fantastic progress this year in all subjects.
Woodrose, several of DD's friends went to a school where they only set for maths. They all seem very happy and their parents are very happy with their progress too.
So sad that your DS has been targeted for being fast at maths - in DD's class at primary school they were all vying to be fastest until they realised that that meant they would be given even harder multiplications to do
In my first teaching job all my classes were mixed ability and I accepted it as the norm. When later I came across setting I looked back with horror at mixed ability thinking it was totally wrong. It is worse in some subjects than others - I cannot imagine mixed ability maths for example (and have never come across it in secondary). It is possible to teach fabulous mixed ability lessons in which every child progresses but it is so difficult and labour intensive that most teachers never achieve it; almost none will be able to come up with it every lesson.
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