This study examines the perceptions of 62 teachers and administrators about topics surrounding grouping students to better differentiate specific instructional needs. This study was conducted in order to find the most effective way to cluster or group students for instruction so that interventions could be prescribed for students at risk of failing. The data indicate that cluster grouping is perceived to be a practical and effective way to meet the diverse needs of students.

This comes from pages 10-11.


Literature Review

     What is the most effective way to cluster or group students for instruction, taking into account that students in today’s schools have diverse instructional needs.  Diverse instructional needs means that each student may or may not have learned what they needed to have learned prior to arriving at school.  Many factors could attribute to this such as moving several times, family separations, previous weak or new teacher, or irregular attendance.  Some type of grouping may be a place to begin.  However, if a return to grouping students in an attempt to meet the needs of the at risk student is put into place, will this grouping effect their learning and the learning of others? 

     The concerns that arise with the Student Success Initiative (SSI) in Texas and effectively scheduling early interventions have created the need to research studies and practices of grouping students for instruction.  If schools return to grouping students to help in scheduling interventions to meet the needs of the student at risk of failing, will this grouping affect their learning?  Although the focus is to intervene and accelerate the learning of the at risk student, all students are to be considered in finding the best way to effectively teach students with diverse ranges of instructional needs?  For the purpose of this research, at risk students were defined as students who are at risk of failing the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAKS) test and/or failing two or more subjects for the year.

     This review includes literature relevant to the research of this study.  It is organized into four major areas:  1) defining types of groupings, 2) analyzing studies and findings from the research of Robert Slavin, 3) presenting opposing points of view through articles written by Jeanie Oaks and Maureen Hallinan as they debated grouping, and 4) differentiation of materials and instruction.  Other related areas include: 1) others seeking solutions to similar problems, 2) reasons for gap in research for these topics, 3) considerations involving equality, and 4) perceptions of learning.

Types of Groupings

     Hollifield (1987) stresses, “Ability grouping of students is one of the oldest and most controversial issues in elementary and secondary schools.  Hundreds of research studies have examined the effects of the two most common variants:  between-class and within-class ability grouping” (p.1).

     When grouping or clustering students school wide, this is sometimes called between-class grouping.  Hollifield (1987) states, “Between-class grouping refers to a school’s practice of forming classrooms that contain students of similar ability” (p. 1).  This type of grouping is done within a team of teachers or a whole grade level.  In theory, these students are ranked by ability and/or achievement and are grouped with like abilities for instruction in all subjects.

     When grouping students that have been assigned to a particular class, this practice is sometimes called within-class grouping.  Hollifield (1987) defines, “Within-class grouping refers to a teacher’s practice of forming groups of students of similar ability within an individual class” (p. 1).  This type of grouping is done within a class.  The teacher groups their students based on ability, achievement, or need.  This is often done for a particular subject.  In theory, these students will learn more when in a smaller group where students around them learn at about the same rate.

     Flexible grouping is another type of grouping.  This type of grouping is a sub-type of within-class grouping.  In theory, this teacher regroups students based on need for different content and the groups are flexible and change as needed for different content.  In practice, these groups would be flexible within a particular content so that instruction could be tailored for specific needs within the content.

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