Negative Aspects of Ability Grouping
Students May Get “Stuck" In a Group
It is important to remember that no student is perfect at everything and no student is bad at everything. Sometimes, when we ability group it is easy to label students and place them in the same low, middle, or high group time after time. This can lead to labeling, (the “nerdy group" or the “dumb group") something teachers want to avoid at all costs. Afterall, a huge part of our job is to make our students feel confident and secure.
It is easy to avoid this by using a data notebook to track students’ progress. This way you do not unintentionally place students in the same groups time after time. If you follow the data, students will actually be placed according to their ability.
If you do notice that students are consistently being placed in the same group, you might want to shake things up and step away from ability grouping for awhile, or try some heterogeneous grouping. School is hard enough for our students, we certainly don’t want to give anyone a reason to bully or tease a classmate.
Additional Work For The Teacher
Ability grouping can add additional work for the teacher… and teachers are certainly busy enough. Ability grouping is not something that has to be done every day, or even every week if you are having a particularly busy week. Figure out the concepts where you seem to have the most differing abilities and use ability grouping only in those areas. Ability grouping can be very beneficial, but only if it is done thoughtfully and with a plan in mind. If you are simply too busy to undertake it one week, put it off until the next.
Ability grouping can be looked at as simply another tool in your toolbox. Pull it out when you need it and when it will work for both you and your students.