Streaming in Schools: The Benefits of Grouping Students by Ability
Ready to Learn!
Group Students According to Their Abilities
Streaming refers to the grouping of students by ability. Students within a certain ability range are grouped together as a class. The objective is to allow like students to move ahead at a pace that matches their abilities. I am a strong advocate for streaming in high schools. In my experience, the results of streaming are more often beneficial than otherwise.
Within a streamed class setting the teacher is able to set a suitable pace for the class and maintain that pace. There is hardly any risk of leaving anyone behind. The entire class is challenged at a level gauged to be appropriate for the whole group.
The teacher can move ahead at a brisk pace with a group of twenty-five bright students who do not require much supervision and need little or no individual attention. In a class of slow students the same applies; however, a slower pace would be necessary and a more reasonable number to work with would be ten to fifteen if teaching is to be effective. In either situation, the teacher is able to select an appropriate pace and move ahead with it.
The Streamed Classroom
In this type of class setting students are able to
- Motivate each other because they possess similar abilities.
- Move ahead at the same pace because there are no major disparities in ability within the stream.
- Grow in confidence and self esteem since no one is made to feel inferior or stupid among his/her peers. In fact, they offer each other friendly competition which is, in itself, motivational.
The Unstreamed Classroom
This class setting can have serious disadvantages:
- Gifted students placed in an unstreamed class setting among low ability students, for whom the pace has to be much slower than their own, soon lose interest in what is happening in the classroom and seek alternative means of engaging themselves. They may manifest their loss of interest through disruptive behaviour, careless attitude towards work, or rebelliousness.The fact is that they are grossly under-challenged so they react. They want to move ahead; instead they are forced to stand still or perhaps even regress to match the pace of the less able students in the class who would probably need twice as much time to complete tasks.
- Lower-ability students are easily demotivated in an unstreamed setting where the pace is set above their level, making their inabilities stand out in stark contrast to those of their peers. They may react in a number of ways such as withdrawal, rebellion, indiscipline and even truancy. Withdrawn students are easily overlooked and often left behind if the teacher is not sensitive and caring. Rebellion and indiscipline obviously cause problems with authority which only exacerbates the situation. Inevitably, these students become drop outs.
In a Streamed Classroom Students Move Together!
In capsule, a streamed class is like a moving train. The conductor is the teacher; the passengers are the students and they are going somewhere together. The unstreamed class is like a group out on a hike. The more fit among the group quickly take the lead only to discover that they must either stop to wait on their lagging companions or go back to meet them. Eventually they may lose enthusiasm for the hike. Likewise, the less able hikers may become frustrated as a result of their inability to keep up with the group and opt out altogether. Undoubtedly, both groups are at a disadvantage in this type of class setting.
Clearly, streaming has many benefits for the gifted as well as the challenged student. Grouped with children of similar abilities, students are able to assist, encourage and motivate each other. They feel a sense of belonging since they are learning in an environment in which they do not feel threatened and are therefore, comfortable.