Could Putting Your Kids in Mixed Ability Classes Help Them?

Should students be in mixed ability classes, this blog takes a look at the pros and cons.

The Disadvantages


Students learn and grow at different rates. The teaching methods that work for one type of student do not necessarily work for other students. Therefore, when the same task is presented to a group of children, some may find it simple while others may struggle with it.


How well a student is able to perform in the classroom also depends, in part, on the knowledge that they enter school with. Unless there are a set of siblings, all the children in the classroom have different parents. They are raised differently. They may even have a different culture. All of this can make it difficult for teachers to reach all of their students. They must try and keep an eye on every student in the class and figure out how to help them achieve their academic goals throughout the school year.


Textbooks are created with ideal conditions in mind; they assume that all the students are the same and learn the same way. Therefore, it is important for teachers to realize that students will use their textbooks in different ways and some will benefit from them more than others. A portion of the kids may not like the text. Others will think it is helpful and are able to use it appropriately. The topics in the book may not appeal to all of the children, either. There will certainly be those that think it is interesting, but there will also be others that just tune out. It is the teacher\’s job to take stock of what is happening in the classroom and present information in a way that will be engaging for the students.


Foreign language learners are just getting adjusted to the classroom. Being in an educational setting is good for them; it is important to take advantage of all that it has to offer. Still, many foreign language learners have trouble speaking up in the classroom setting; they may not be sure of themselves, they may not know what is going on, or they may not like the material. Others, though, are excited to use their new language and want to get in as much practice as they can. Teachers may notice that some students speak all the time, while others are quiet for the majority of the lessons.


If a child does not like the material or does not bond well with the teacher, they may struggle to learn. Similarly, if they do not know the language, they could struggle as well. Individual personality also plays a role. If a particular lesson isn\’t in line with a student\’s interests, they might just tune out. Or, a child that enjoys talking and working as a group may struggle to keep up with a lesson that is very teacher directed. Teachers must pay attention to the uniqueness of their classroom and try to come up with a variety of activities that will keep all students as engaged as possible.


Advanced students normally finish their work before the rest of the class. If there is nothing for them to do, they may act out because they are bored. The students that are having trouble getting their work finished quickly may start to feel bad about their academics skills. This could also cause them to act out. Therefore, classrooms that house students with mixed abilities could see a lot of behavior problems.


The Advantages


Classrooms that have students with mixed abilities give children the chance to see and understand opinions and ideas that are different from their own. In addition, they are helpful when it comes to team building, reading aloud, general direction and topic introduction.


Students that are doing very well can serve as role models and mentors for those that need a little more support. Therefore, their confidence improves as they consistently master different topics.


Students can be divided into small groups based on their ability level. Advanced students then have the opportunity to encourage each other to do their best, and they have the chance to work on more complicated material. They can also work on their own, pacing themselves as appropriate.


If you’re interested in more detail on mixed classes, then this post from Tradewind could be worth a read.

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