Purposes of Grouping Gifted Students


cori_middle_school_readingOver the past weekend I read a position paper on grouping from the National Association for Gifted Children.  I thought that I would discuss some of the high points of this position paper.

Grouping gifted students is one of the foundation practices of gifted education. There are many different types of grouping strategies that can be done that can produce positive results. The optics of groups is what can be interpreted as “elitist” or creates the illusion that this group of gifted children may think too highly of themselves, or it may be perceived that grouping gifted children harms the struggling students. None of this is shown in recent research.

There are four purposes for grouping:

to ease the delivery of appropriately differentiated curriculum to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate the use of appropriately differentiated instructional strategies to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate addressing the differential affective needs of these children in the most conductive manner;

to allow for learners of similar abilities or performance levels to learn from each other.

The overall aching affect of the strategy of grouping is to create the least restrictive environment possible for learning to take place. This also allows schools to channel challenging course work to these students.

Grouping Practices

There are two types of grouping: full time and part time, and they each have strategies that can fall into performance based or abilities based groups. Performance based group option is based on grouping students with similar achievement levels. Ability based group option is based on grouping students based on intelligence, ability, or aptitude tests.

Full Time Ability group options:

  • Full time gifted program
  • Self-contained gifted classroom
  • Special / Magnet school for the gifted
  • Cluster grouping: (top 5-8 gifted students at a grade level are placed in a mixed ability classroom as a small group, and are provided with appropriate differentiated instruction.

Research shows that using full time ability grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/3 years to 2 years growth. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Part time Ability Group options

  • Pull out/send out/withdrawal/resource room enrichment groups: gifted students are removed from their regular classroom for specific time each week to work on differentiated activities such as critical thinking, problem solving, and extensions of the general curriculum.
  • Like-ability cooperative groups within classrooms: when a teacher decided to use cooperative learning groups in a mixed ability groups with usually the 3-4 highest ability students being grouped together.  They are given appropriately differentiated expectations and assessments.

Research shows that using part time ability grouping strategies  could yield students growth levels of growth of more than a year in creativity, and critical thinking skills in subjects that are focused on during the pull out. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Performance groupings that meet daily (subject specific)

  • Cluster performance grouping: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject like math or language arts are placed in a mixed ability classroom and are provided with differentiated instruction in that core subject.
  • Regrouping for specific instruction: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject are placed in a high performance classroom and provided with accelerated and enriched content and skills from that core subject.

Research shows that using performance based grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 years to 1 3/4 years growth depending on the content that is .

Performance grouping options that do not meet daily:

  • Within-class / flexible grouping: a teacher of a mixed ability class divides the class into groups according to their “readiness” for the curriculum to be taught.
  • Like-performing cooperative learning groups: when a teacher decides to use cooperative learning groups places the highest 3-4 performing students in their own group receiving differentiated instruction and assessments.
  • Performance based pull out/ send out/ withdrawal/ resource room enrichment classes: the top performing students in a core subject are removed from the regular classroom to work on more challenging and complex content and skills based on the core subject.

Research shows that using part time performance grouping strategies for specific subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years growth depending on the subject.

Schools should have many grouping options available to students from pre-school to high school. How schools decide to group will be based on what is the culture of the school. The options chosen by schools and teachers will have to fit the culture of the school. What ever option that is chosen is ensure that gifted students achieve at their highest potential.

Grouping students together is a way to allow gifted students access to learning at the level and complexity that is needed. It allows gifted students to make social connections with same aged peers who think and learn like them.

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