Educational Values and Cognitive Instruction: Implications for Reform

By Lorna Idol; Beau Fly Jones | Go to book overview

7
Grouping Students for Instruction in Elementary Schools

Rebecca Barr
National College of Education

Carolyn S. Anderson
Niles Township High Schools

How should children be grouped for instruction in elementary schools? Many teachers and administrators are considering this question. In this chapter, we describe an interactive approach that professionals in elementary school districts may use to establish sound policies for instructional grouping. By "interactive" we mean one in which teachers and administrators jointly explore alternatives and establish policy. This approach is more time-consuming than policy established through administrative directive, because time is required to consider alternatives and to agree on policy. It has the advantage, however, of increasing knowledge and commitment of those involved to the policies developed.

We describe this complex decision-making process through a case study of a hypothetical elementary school district that is evaluating its current grouping and teaching practices1. We discuss the steps undertaken by these teachers and administrators to learn more about what is known about grouping, examine their own grouping practices, delineate their shared beliefs about grouping, and develop a district policy on grouping.

Decisions about how to group students occur at several points in schools: when catchment areas for schools are defined, when students are assigned to grades and to classes, and when they are assigned by teachers to groups for instruction. There is a long tradition of assigning students to classes and groups on the basis of ability or achievement

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1
The description of District 999 is a composite profile based on eight districts that the authors worked in during the past 10 years.

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