INSTRUCTION PROVIDED TO STUDENTS OF DIFFERENT ABILITIES IN A WITHIN-CLASS SETTING

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2004-11-16

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This study was designed to examine primary grade teachers' use of within-class ability grouping, including if the operation and dynamics of ability grouping differ for above-average, average, and below-average readers. Characteristics of the teacher, school, and classroom were also examined to determine if these variables predict teachers' use of ability grouping.

 600 randomly selected primary (i.e., first, second, and third) grade teachers from throughout the United States were asked to complete a questionnaire; 222 elected to participate, 272 declined participation and 106 were eliminated from the study for a variety of reasons (e.g., retired, maternity leave, no longer a primary grade teacher or employee); thus yielding a response rate of 45%. In addition to demographic information about the teachers, their students, and the schools, participants responded to a series of questions designed to assess teacher efficacy in reading, beliefs about reading instruction, and beliefs about ability grouping. Teachers who use ability grouping were further asked to answer a series of questions about how ability groups operate for above-average, average, and below-average readers in their class. 

 Results showed that 63% of the teachers questioned either reported (55%) or were identified (7%) as using ability grouping through open-ended questions. Statistically significant results were noted when comparing the instruction provided to and materials used with students of varying ability. Furthermore, three variables (i.e., beliefs about ability grouping, years teaching, and location) were also found to contribute to the prediction of teachers' use of ability grouping. Future research and limitations are also addressed.

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