There are several advantages to heterogeneous grouping such as improved reading levels due to teamwork, skill building, expectations, and increased one-on-one time with students and teachers. One good example of the use of heterogeneous grouping in the classrooms is the use of CSR, or Collaborative Strategic Reading. With it comes many techniques that are able to be implemented by all teachers. Students also get to share and teach each other. There might be some concerns with the validity of heterogeneous grouping, but when used appropriately and with diligence, it broadens all expectations.
The Basics of Heterogeneous Groupings
Heterogeneous grouping is also known as mixed ability, collaborative grouping, or achievement grouping. So called because the style of teaching/learning takes students from all levels of the learning spectrum and places them within the same class, where they all work together on a curriculum that is both challenging and rewarding. This is done by not singling out the “gifted” and the “slower” students from the average students, and using techniques that will benefit all. Heterogeneous grouping presents to the class a wide variety of choices to make.
These choices might include which roles to focus on within the group, or at what level of difficulty that a student might challenge himself/herself. Those challenges broaden the field as to what the students are able to achieve.
When students bring their chosen book to the classroom, there are several ways that students are able to receive reading instruction that is varied by the teacher. Those ways can be guided reading groups, individual reading with conferencing, or reading circles. It is thought that by setting up classrooms with one or more of these groups, students are able to analyze and critique what they have read to their groups. Heterogeneous grouping is seen as an enhancer for group work because within those classes, everyone learns from everyone else, and it is expected that students be given ample amount of opportunities to participate in class, as well as learn to respect those with other ideas within the same environment.
Advantages to Mixed Level Learning
There are several advantages to heterogeneous grouping when it caters to individual student reading levels. One such advantage is teamwork. Studies have shown that if a common goal is worked toward, students tend to regulate each other. In other words, if something that is difficult is given to a group of students, it is likely that they will be able to do it together and then alone. This goes hand in hand with the idea of skill building. Skills can be attained and put to good use if the class is set up for it. One way to do that is to have a classroom that is literacy balanced, where children are able to grasp different reading strategies. Working alone or in groups, they learn comprehension skills and engage in talks about books.
Whether it’s known as heterogeneous grouping, mixed ability, collaborative grouping or achievement grouping, there can be no question that some students flourish. Teamwork, skill building, student and teacher expectation, and increased one-on-one time between students and teachers are advantages to heterogeneous grouping.
One good example of a heterogeneous grouping can be see in Collaborative Strategic Reading. In it, all students learn to work in a diverse structured classroom. But no matter how much teachers self-teach, prepare, or go to seminars, they may be afraid to make such a radical change for fear of slipping into old habits.
The concerns of heterogeneous groupings are understood. Some fear that the “slower” will be left in the dust, and the “gifted” will be held back, but studies are showing increasingly that all students reach the expectations and more when they are given goals to achieve, and the proper tools to work with. Students challenge each other to improve, as they challenge themselves individuality and succeed, and that’s what makes it worthwhile.
- Bissu, Miriam. (n.d.). The pros and cons of heterogeneous grouping. In Teachers Network.
- Glass, Gene V. (n.d.). 5: Grouping students for instruction. In School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence (Chapter 5).
- Klinger, Janette K. & Sharon Vaughn. (1998). Using Collaborative Strategic Reading. In Teaching Exceptional Children July/August 1998.
- Slavin, R.E. (1998). Synthesis of research on grouping in elementary and secondary schools. Educational Leadership, 46 (1), 67-77.