Cluster Grouping is used in mixed-ability classrooms. GT students are ‘clustered’ together. This facilitates differentiated instruction enabling teachers to better meet the needs of ALL students.
Isn’t Cluster Grouping the same as tracking? ‘Tracking’ is an approach historically fraught with negative connotations. Students placed on a track remained there throughout their education K-12. Cluster Grouping is not ‘tracking’. It is flexible, addresses specific needs, and can be realigned when necessary. It avoids putting ALL students into permanent tracks while allowing all students to explore their personal academic potential.
Teachers using Cluster Grouping reported increased identification, awareness, and understanding of students’ needs. They felt instructional strategies were more effective. GT students are more at ease learning with intellectual peers and able to explore content more deeply. Inappropriate behaviors are curtailed. Cluster Grouping provides GT students with gifted education opportunities that are cost-effective for school districts experiencing budgetary constraints.
It’s essential that Cluster Teachers have specialized training in teaching GT students. They should know how to recognize and nurture GT, and allow them to demonstrate mastery. Cluster Teachers should be able to provide accelerated pacing, allow for independent study, and facilitate sophisticated research opportunities. (Winebrenner)
Won’t the presence of GT Cluster Groups inhibit the performance of other students? Over 30 years of research (Feldhusen ’89, Rogers ’93, Gentry ’99, Brulles ’05, Plucker ’10, Pierce ’11) says otherwise. GT Cluster Groups don’t inhibit other students. Size matters. Keeping groups to a manageable size has shown to improve achievement for all students (Winebrenner).
Schools need to be realistic about their access to and ability to provide necessary resources required to implement Cluster Grouping. Professional development in GT must be required for all teachers, admins, and staff involved in developing and instituting Cluster Grouping, AND be ongoing. Expectations and well-established norms must precede establishment of Cluster Grouping in a school district to ensure the success of students and the program. Successful Cluster Grouping involves embedded PD, advisors and mentors for teachers, expertise in advance scheduling, and parent and community involvement. A transcript of this chat can be found at Wakelet.
The Cluster Grouping Handbook (pdf preview)
CTD Hosts Conference on Cluster Grouping ( October 2018)
Todd Talks – Cluster Grouping (YouTube 13:14)
Meta-analytic Findings on Grouping Programs (Abstract Only)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.
Ability grouping is often a topic of discussion in the gifted community, but this week at #gtchat we expanded the discussion to include whether ability grouping can affect a gifted student’s self-esteem. Ability grouping can be a boost to a gifted student’s self-esteem by reducing exposure to bullying, name calling, and feeling like they are loners. It aids in placing highly-abled students together where cooperative and collaborative work result in mutual respect in pride in results. A shared workload with peers improves a student’s belief in their contribution.
We group athletes and musicians without charges of elitism; why not high-ability students? It is sometimes beyond belief that society is so accepting of the benefits of ability grouping in sports and the arts; yet expresses such anathema towards academic grouping. We can be born to be anything except intellectually gifted. In the court of public opinion, the gifted community must take the high road – look for ways to improve identification, define what being gifted is and isn’t; then, focus on self-care for our kids.
Grouping can take many different forms and look very different in elementary school than it does at the secondary level. Grouping strategies should be tested and adapted to specific situations when necessary. It may be strictly tracking (secondary) in some instances when student choice dictates a specific career path. Grouping can consist of cluster grouping in inclusive classrooms and flexible grouping when called for. Small group rotations in the elementary classroom can allow teachers to differentiate the curriculum and spend time with groups who need the most intervention while allowing others more independence.
Teachers should be flexible in their approach to grouping; willing to change and tweak what might not be working. They should consider that needs of all students to see what works best. Effective grouping can ensure success across the intellectual spectrum; presenting challenge at the appropriate level. Teaching how to work in a group should be the first step when introducing grouping. Assessment of a student’s work should reflect each individual’s contribution; traditional grading methods may not work.
Can ability grouping be used to promote equity in high-ability tracks? States with a larger percentage of 8th grade students tracked in math had a larger percentage of high-scoring AP students four years later. Heightened AP performance held across racial subgroups—white, black & Hispanic. Equity has a better chance to occur when the ‘human’ factor is reduced within the identification process; reliance on universal screening is better.
It’s important that grouping not be used to replace gifted programming. It should be considered simply another tool in the classroom teacher’s toolbox; a different strategy to be used to meet students’ needs. Grouping should be considered in addition to other strategies as part of the student’s total educational plan. Students have different strengths and often challenges which need to be met with a variety of options. A transcript of the chat can be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 2 PM NZST/Noon AEST/1 AM UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
Ability Grouping Presentation Notes (pdf 2012)
Ability Grouping (Slide Player)
Tracking and Ability Grouping (SlideShare)
Clipart courtesy of Clipart Library
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.
“Students can and should be grouped to learn in a way that best meets their individual needs, and regrouped at reasonable intervals during their progression along a curricular continuum. This grouping may transcend age, homeroom, and grade level if it allows the student to be more successful.” ~ Ellis School, Fremont, SD
A discussion about ability grouping must inevitably begin by explaining the difference between it and the more controversial concept of tracking. Generally, tracking separates students into separate classes, whereas ability grouping occurs within classrooms. Today, most ability grouping is considered to be more flexible than in the past.
“Without ability groups future Olympic swimmers would have to paddle in the shallow end of pool till all were at same level.” ~ Jo Freitag, Gifted Resources
However, ability grouping like tracking has garnered a lot of negative attention even in the face of recent research which presents many positive outcomes; especially for gifted students (see links below). One issue which seems to accompany any new practice being introduced into education is the lack of adequate professional development and training for teachers. It’s also important to consider the feelings and well-being of all children when changing the way they are grouped in classrooms.
“We confuse potential with need. Ability grouping meets a need, but it is seen as predicting who will succeed and who won’t.” ~ Shanna Weber
Of course, it was pointed out that ability grouping already exists in most schools that have athletics. In fact, without being able to develop athletic talent, sports would eventually cease to be what they are today. Sport talent is developed through identification of top athletes, providing the best coaches, and training. Some U.S. colleges seek commitments from top athletes while still in middle school. So why do schools turn their backs on their top academic talent?
“Ability grouping is “legal” in everything except academics. No one wants to admit someone else is smarter or better in academics.” ~ Carolyn K, Hoagies Gifted
Historically, schools grouped students based on factors other than ability; relying on observations only. The selection process or identification was often tied to human bias. An easy solution would be to screen all children. Flexible grouping and regrouping which responds to ongoing assessment of progress could be used rather than the inflexible system of strict tracking.
“Preparation matters. In communities across the country, pipelines are in place to nurture and develop promising young athletes. Not so with academic stars. Why not? In a word, because singling out advanced students for special coursework involves tracking. But tracking is controversial. By definition, it involves differentiating students in terms of their skills and knowledge. Recent research on tracking that employs techniques to minimize selection bias and other shortcomings of previous research, has documented examples of tracking being used to promote equity.” ~ Brown Center on Education Report 2016 Section 2
We then turned out attention to recent research on structuring ability grouping to promote equity in high-ability tracks. States with a larger percentage of 8th grade students in tracked math classes have a larger percentage of high-scoring AP students four years later. Heightened AP performance holds across racial subgroups—white, black and Hispanic. (Loveless) Equity has a better chance to occur when the ‘human’ factor is reduced. Research suggests tracking high-achievers across the board boosts performance for all. (Card/Giuliano 2014) A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at Noon (12.00) NZST/10.00 AEST/1.00 UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
Amazing Classrooms: Engaging the High Achievers (YouTube 14:35)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.
This week #gtchat welcomed longtime friend, Lisa Van Gemert, the Youth and Education Ambassador for American Mensa, to tackle the tough questions surrounding effective grouping of gifted students. Lisa explained to us the many different types of grouping that were possible, but reminded us “it’s important to keep groups fluid – allowing movement with achievement and progress.” She went on to say, “Teachers need to teach the skills of working in groups. It doesn’t come naturally to anyone, especially the gifted.” A valid point often overlooked by critics of grouping.
One of the biggest complaints that gifted students have about grouping is having to do the majority of the work. Lisa told us, “It is *critical* that a student never be graded on another student’s effort (or lack thereof). Instant frustration. It’s unfair to set up GT kids for social failure by putting them in groups in which they have to take over in order to succeed.
An oft heard criticism of ability grouping is that it undermines less-able children. However, Lisa pointed out that this is just an excuse to deprive GT kids of the opportunity to work with their peers. Her philosophy ~ “I believe that best serving all children best serves all children. The end.” We couldn’t agree more! A full transcript of this chat may be found here.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.
Amazing Classrooms: Engaging the High Achievers (YouTube 14:35)
To Track or Not to Track via @jeff_shoemaker
Differentiation Class Poster – Free Download from Lisa Van Gemert
Lisa Van Gemert’s website GiftedGuru.com
Grouping without Fear from Lisa Van Gemert
Gifted Education Services by Susan Winebrenner (pdf)
Your Favorite Grouping Strategy Creates Bullies from Ginger Lewman