Tags: Classroom Teacher | G&T Coordinator | G&T policy | G&T pupils | Gifted & Talented | Grouping | Professional update | Teaching & Learning

The British Educational Research Journal has found that pupils prefer working in sets determined by ability.

Five thousand Year 9 pupils from 45 secondary comprehensives in England were asked about their preferred grouping and the reasons for their choice.

Schools were grouped into three categories: schools that favoured mixed-ability teaching; partially-set schools, where two subjects were streamed; and schools which used streaming or banding in at least four subjects.

Most pupils preferred setting, although this was mediated by their set placement, type of school, socio-economic status and gender. The key reason given for their preference was that it enabled students’ work to be matched to their needs.

The report’s authors (Susan Hallam and Judith Ireson, of the Institute of Education) also looked at ways of avoiding sets because of ‘the negative social and personal outcomes of setting for some pupils’.

  • 62% of students preferred setting
  • 24% opted for mixed-ability classes
  • 70% of pupils in set and partially-set schools preferred setting
  • 47% of pupils in mixed-ability schools preferred setting.

Tellingly, higher-ability pupils preferred setting, with the converse being true of lower-ability pupils.

Hallam, S and Ireson, J (2006) ‘Secondary School Pupils’ Preferences for Different Types of Structured Grouping Practices’ British Educational Research Journal, 32, 4, 583-599.

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Oct 2006

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