Ability Grouping or Flexible Groups? A Shift in Thinking

This past Sunday the #oagctdchat occurred, and something that Dr. Jim Delisle tweeted has made me redefine my view on ability groups or as some call them flexible groups. He said “Let’s not call it tracking–a loaded word. Instead, ‘grouping by readiness to learn’. which is what I suggest.” This tweet really got me thinking, about how we group our children. We have to get a way from the terminology and ideas of the past century, and revamp those ideas to fit today’s society and culture.

When we say we are tracking students we are grouping children my how much they know, not necessarily what they can do. There were usually tracks of high, medium and low. With tracking we were concerned with making sure our students fit into one of those groups. This was the past century thinking.

Thtweet1is tweet is 21st century thinking. We need to have the idea that this tweet expresses. We need begin to allow children to show us what they know, and are able to do. Then we group by their “readiness to learn.” Every student has the right to have an educational experience that is appropriate to them and to their abilities. This kind of thinking does that.

There is nothing wrong with “grouping by readiness”. Many teachers and parents have a negitive view of grouping. I can understand why. Grouping segregates students, and at times groups have their own negitive view on the other groups. Teachers need to make sure that children in those groups aren’t place in a hierarchy. Every group is equal, and on the same level. Which is why we have to group by readiness to learn.

What do you think about Dr. Delisle’s tweet? Does your school or classroom have grouping by ability or by flexible grouping? How does it work? What do you like or dislike about grouping?


2 thoughts on “Ability Grouping or Flexible Groups? A Shift in Thinking

  1. I agree completely; ability grouping has been confused too long with tracking, and too many children have been denied an opportunity to expand and grow intellectually, or to have the support of like-minded peers in their classes.

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