Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (yes, Saturday!!) of this week, I attended a professional development class. I was pretty disappointed that I really didn't get much out of it, other than a headache from walking between 104 degrees outside and 59 degrees inside AND a chance to read lots of my book during the lengthy and frequent downtimes.
But one of the things that was discussed was a bit puzzling to me, so I wanted to throw it up here (not in the vomit sense) for debate. The issue was of Ability Grouping.
The speaker was obviously against ability grouping. He said that in the past, some people have put the high kids together in one class and the lower kids together in another class. In this situation, the low kids tend to learn a lot and the high kids learn a lot, but the gap between their knowledge grows even wider. Whereas in a mixed-ability group, the high kids will pull the lower kids up, and so the knowledge gap is decreased.
What I'm wondering is, is our goal here really to shrink the knowledge gap, or is our goal to teach every kid as much as possible? And is it really better to have a smaller gap at the end of the year, where the high kids have increased, let's say, 10% and the low kids have increased, let's say, 30%, OR is it better at the end of the year to have high kids that have increased by 50% and low kids that have increased by 50%?
Several years ago, my partner and I did group our kids as such. I felt that it was successful because I could go at a different pace with each group, and not feel like anyone was being left behind. However, I can also see the merits of letting the high kids become more "teacherly" in helping the lower kids.