Elementary school children placed in the lower group of their class continue to show increased levels of hyperactivity and emotional problems through childhood and early adolescence, pioneering new research shows.
While the impact of skill grouping on children’s academic achievement has been thoroughly researched, the study from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education focuses on the behavioral and emotional outcomes of young people who are at the lowest abilities at an early age.
The new findings, published in the journal Child Development, have prompted researchers to encourage children in lower-class groups to be closely monitored by their teachers to ensure their well-being is not compromised.
The research, which examined the effect of ability grouping at the age of seven on children in UK schools, is based on analysis of data from more than 7,000 pupils who were periodically assessed for peer, emotional, hyperactivity and behavioral problems up to the age of 14. .
Researchers found that children in groups with lower abilities in the class showed more hyperactivity and emotional problems during the study period compared to children who were not taught in skill groups. Children in the middle age groups showed more hyperactivity than those who were not in groups, while children in the top group were less likely to show signs of hyperactivity than non-grouped children.
The study is significant because ability or performance grouping is very common in UK schools, where almost four out of five (79%) of primary schools use ability grouping in the seven-year-old class.
Students with similar levels are grouped together on tables, but all students are taught by their usual teacher and support staff, and they usually follow the same curriculum, but at different levels of difficulty to ensure that all students have an appropriate level of challenge.
According to UCL research, studies examining the effect of ability grouping on achievement have yielded mixed results. The Education Endowment Fund, a charity that provides evidence-based resources designed to improve practice and learning in schools in the UK, found that class performance grouping could result in two months of further progress for some children, but said the evidence was limited.
The UCL study requires further research. The author of the report, Dr. Steven Papachristou, said: “Our findings on the increased emotional and behavioral problems of children placed in low-ability groups within the classroom highlight an important challenge for the use and implementation of ability grouping. Whether the academic benefits of classifying Abilities within the class reported by some outweigh its shortcomings should be a priority for future research.
To date, very little is known about the learning dynamics, peer processes, and subtle effects of ability grouping in the classroom, especially in classes with extensive selective grouping.
“However, if the correlations found in this study are causal, they suggest that children in the lower class’s abilities require close supervision and support from their teachers to ensure that their behavioral and emotional development does not compromised. “
Prof Eirini Flouri, a co-author, added: “Our study was the first general population survey in the UK to explore the role of both class grouping abilities and classroom abilities in children’s mental health. We found neither psychosocial benefits nor psychosocial disadvantages for them. in the upper competence groups, neither between the class nor within the class.
“But those in the lower classes of the class showed consistently elevated levels of emotional and behavioral problems. Whether it’s due to stigma or unfavorable social comparisons or another process remains to be tested.”
The Ministry of Education declined to comment on the study, saying it was up to the schools to decide their approach to competency grouping, taking into account the available documentation and the specific needs of their own students. It added that streaming students according to ability could help teachers provide each child with an appropriate education.