Homogeneous Groups in Education

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Homogeneous groups in educational settings is defined as groups of students organized so that students of similar instructional levels are placed together, working on materials suited to their particular level, as determined through assessments. These groups are also known as ability groups.

Homogeneous groups can be contrasted directly with heterogeneous groups in which students of varying abilities are grouped together.

Also Known As: Ability-Based Groups

Examples of Homogenous Groups in Educational Settings

When organizing reading groups, the teacher puts all of the "high" students together in their own group. Then, the teacher meets with all of the "high" readers at the same time and read a "higher" book with them, and so on, through the various reading levels that exist in the class.

When composing classrooms for the year, a school may group the talented and gifted students into a TAG classroom, while grouping students who have intellectual, emotional, or physical challenges into a different classroom. Students who fall into the middle of the spectrum are assigned to a different classroom.

Students may be grouped by ability for specific subjects, but be in a heterogenous classroom most of the day. There may be an advanced math group and a group for students who need more assistance in meeting grade level for math.

Advantages of Homogenous Groups

A homogenous group can have a lesson plan tailored to the ability of the group as a whole, rather than having to address students with a variety of abilities and needs.

Students may feel more comfortable in a group of their peers who are able to learn at about the same speed. Advanced students may not feel the pressure they experience in a heterogenous group to be an assistant instructor and always help the students who are trailing.

Advanced students may not feel held back to learn at a slower pace than they can achieve when with other advanced students. Parents of advanced students are often pleased that their child is in the advanced group. This may further spur the child to achieve even more.

Students who have lesser abilities than average may feel less pressure when in a homogenous group. They may have felt stigmatized by always being the slowest learner in a heterogenous group. The teacher assigned to such a group may have additional training in assisting students who have special needs or a slower learning pace.

Disadvantages of Homogenous Groups

There has been a move away from homogenous groups. One reason is the stigmatization of groups of students of lesser learning ability, emotional needs, or physical needs. Some studies showed that reduced expectations for such groups were a self-fulfilling prophecy. Students may be given a curriculum that wasn't challenging and therefore didn't learn as much as they would in a heterogenous group.

There have been concerns that minority and economically disadvantaged students were more likely to end up in a lower-level group.

Students may have varying abilities by subject and therefore being grouped into a classroom that labels them either gifted or special needs ignores that they may be high-performing in some subjects and need more assistance in others.