Homogeneous Grouping Research Paper

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¶ … Homogenous Grouping

The term homogeneous refers to items or elements or units which are similar in nature and are in a group which essentially means that they posses the same type of basic qualities or properties. The antonym for the word homogeneous is heterogeneous. Therefore, when a group of items is referred to as homogenous then it means that the single items that make up the group have a number of similarities while a group that has items that differ in all sorts of properties is referred to as heterogeneous. These terms are not limited to items only but can also be used to describe a group of individuals by considering similarities and differences in some traits or features. When used in a learning environment, homogeneous groups refer to an organized group of students possessing comparable instructional levels placed together handling materials that are deemed fit to their specific level, this is usually determined through a series of assessments and the process of forming such groups is known as 'homogeneous grouping.'

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The exercise of homogeneous grouping employs a model that generally puts students into groups with regard to ability or achievement as the variables for making a decision. At a higher level of student learning the practice is commonly practiced in mathematics, in which case students are taken through general, vocational, or college-preparatory courses in mathematics. A similar situation can also be experienced in schools that offer algebra at the eighth grade especially at the junior high school and middle levels (Oakes, 1985; Slavin, 1990). Tracking or grouping can also be done to students at the elementary school level, even though the grouping at this stage is done by measuring general ability or achievement and not on ability or achievement with regard to mathematics. A second case in point where homogeneous grouping is done for students is the small groups in classrooms where clusters are tagged on ability or achievement in that specific classroom. This practice has been customary for reading instruction more commonly at the elementary school level for a long time. The same organization is used by teachers for mathematics instruction.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Homogeneous Grouping Assignment

The placing of students into high, medium, and low groups for mathematics instruction is not much practised at the middle, junior, or high school level where there is a tendency for students to do less work when placed in small groups (Slavin, 1990). The emergence of such practices was brought about by the prevalent belief that the difference in children's intellectual is so great that there is a need to teach students with different ability or achievement levels in a separate class or group (Oakes, 1986), yet many concerns have come up with regard to the long-term effect that practicing such groupings may cause.

Grouping of students can either take the form of 'ability grouping' or 'tracking' with a distinct difference existing between the two terms, however a lot of debates have been raised in line with these terms. The meaning of these terms have been observed to vary from one school to another, in this case ability grouping is defined as a situation where students are organized into groups in classes in reading instruction while tracking is described as the placing students into groups between classes, giving academic courses in subjects that reveal differences in the prior learning or ability of the students.

Tracking specifically has generated blistering debate with critics charging that it not only fails to assist any student, but that it also leads poor and minority students into low tracks and dooms a huge number of students to a poor education. It does not however lack defenders who have also stood firm in arguing that it students with high ability languish in classes with mixed ability. Conversely, some teachers are in favour of ability grouping suggesting that most students get disappointed when the whole class does not grasp a new idea at the same time in a heterogeneous grouping. The teachers argue that the low-end students pull down the high-end students, rather than the inverse taking place. The pace of the class goes down and it becomes necessary for a teacher to prepare double lesson plans for every period, one for the high-end students and another for the low-end students. At some point one teacher acknowledged the fact that ability grouping could be beneficial in certain areas such as mathematics but warned that it should not be practised all day in all academic areas. So as the debate continues, a common ground on tracking and ability grouping is hard to find, perhaps the most general conclusion between teachers handling this issue is that ability grouping is beneficial in some cases, but not in others, and that it is necessary to be flexible so that tracking of students is not done with no clear capability of moving from group to group.

Though ability grouping is widely employed by schools across the country, it is a very controversial subject. The controversy of ability grouping stems from the scarcity of evidence of how students in higher learning learn best. Do they learn best in homogeneous groups? Can students' educational needs be best served in groups of mixed abilities? These are the issues that need to be explored deeply in the recent studies.

There are a number of definitions that are important and need to be clarified. These definitions pertain to structural dimensions of ability grouping or tracking practice. These aspects are electivity, selectivity, inclusiveness and scope. Electivity is the extent to which students choose or are assigned to track positions. Students and their parents are urged by educators to make the "right" choice according to their capacities. Curiously, Gamoran showed that the more elective a system, the higher were its students' achievement levels (Gamoran, 1990). Selectivity is the extent of homogeneity within tracks. It is the amount of homogeneity educators intend to create by dividing students into groups according to characteristics for learning. The more selective a system is, the more the organization of its students does not represent the composition of its whole student body and the more between-class differences are accentuated (Gamoran, 1990).

Inclusiveness is the availability of options for subsequent educational opportunities (Gamoran, 1990). In other words, does the instruction a student receives prepare him or her for further acquisition of knowledge down the road, or does it cut the student off from other options. Finally, scope is the breadth and flexibility of a tracking assignment; the extent to which students are located in the same track across their subjects (Gamoran, 1990).

Effects of ability grouping

Ability grouping has a number of effects on that have an impact on student performance and they can be categorised as achievement, self-concept, expectancies and attitudes, socio-economic maintenance, and opportunities for learning.


In examining the first issue, which is achievement, the first question to be answered is what is achievement and how is it measured? Achievement can be defined as the successful attainment of skills. There a various ways in which achievement can be measured. Most commonly used in the studies and are considered here are achievement tests and/or grades on report cards. Both measurements allow for a comparison of skills among students. Reuman's 1989 study tried to answer the question of whether or not social comparisons mediate the relation between ability grouping and students' achievement expectancies in mathematics. While his study primarily included information on student expectations of their achievement, results concerning actual achievement were also stated. Mathematics achievement was measured for sixth-graders from a suburban public school district in South-eastern Michigan using both achievement test scores and report card grades. His findings pertained to within-class and between-class ability grouping. He found that within-class grouping raised high-achievers' mathematics grades. This may be explained by the fact that in a heterogeneous classroom using within-class grouping, students of varying abilities were being compared to each other. In within-class grouping the high-achievers were not in competition with all high-achieving students. Their grades were being compared with grades of average and low-achieving students and would therefore be higher. Conversely, low-achievers' grades would e lower. The opposite was true for between class ability groupings. Reuman found that high-achievers received lower grades in between-class grouping and the low-achievers received higher grades when compared to within-class grouping. In between-class grouping the high achievers are no longer at the top of their class nor are the low achievers at the bottom. They are now being compared to students of similar abilities and their grades reflect that fact. Although Reuman's study did not focus on secondary students, it is practical to include this report since it gives a comparison and contrast of within-class and between-class ability grouping and there is a growing trend towards moving the sixth-grade into the middle schools.

Newfield and McElyea (1983) looked at sophomore and senior achievement differences in remedial and advanced mathematics and English classes as they compared to heterogeneous classes. Heterogeneous classes that included low-achievers performed better on the written portion of the English test. Low-achieving… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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