Children's attitude to mixed-ability groupings
Sue Lyle interviewed children from a school in Swansea that had run a ‘mixed ability’ and ‘mixed gender’ project designed to improve pupils’ literacy. The tasks in the project were designed so that pupils were collaboratively involved with the activities and texts being studied.
Children expressed the view that there were some benefits gained from working in this mixed-ability, collaborative way. One pupil explained this was ‘… because you get more information because people share ideas’ (pupil quoted in Lyle, 1999, p. 289).
Pupils were also aware that they were learning a way of interacting with one another, particularly where disagreements arose:
‘It was like team work.’ ‘You might have an idea and someone will say, “no, let's have this one”, and then you all start arguing. Then you discuss it to come up with the best idea.’
(Pupils quoted in Lyle, 1999, p. 290)
The children mentioned rules that were important for this way of working, such as ‘give the others a chance’ and ‘be nice to each other’. They also said that they had made new friends as a result of this way of learning: ‘We've got closer, because before we thought they were dorks and stupid but we realize that they really, really are … nice’ (pupil in Lyle, 1999, p. 292). Further, children said they learnt from both helping and being helped by others in the class. ‘When asked if they thought their work would have been as good if they had worked on their own there were unanimous cries of, “No!”, “No Way!”’ (Lyle, 1999, p. 290).
This way of working seems to be valued by the children and to benefit them in several ways. The positive feelings expressed by the children about this way of working seem to fit with research that asked children about what makes them happy in school.