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Investigating the Effect of Streaming on Performance of Students

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LITERATURE REVIEW ON AN INVESTIGATION UNTO THE EFFECT OF STREAMING ON THE PERFORMANCE OF SLOW LEARNERS. This chapter is a reflection of what other researchers have come up with pertaining to the problem of streaming. It will help to gain understanding of the current state of knowledge about this problem. It will also help to stimulate and derive an initial list of pertinent questions to ask or behaviors to observe (Johnson and Christensen, 2012). Additionally it will show the originality and relevance of the research problem owing to the fact that, knowing what others have done makes researchers to be better prepared to understand with deeper insight, the problem under study (Leedey, 1985). One of the most controversial aspects of teaching is dealing with the many differences between students in the classroom (Reynolds, 2011), then (West and Muijs, 2009) observes that there is a need for personalization in order to offer education that is tailored to the learner, within systems responsive to learners’ needs rather than expecting the learner to adapt to the existing systems within the school. In order to address the differences in learning abilities teachers find themselves using the term streaming. There are a number of definitions of streaming. To begin with the Oxford English dictionary defines streaming as the policy of dividing school students into groups of the same level of ability. Daniel Muijs (2011), also defines streaming as a procedure where by students are segregated into different classes according to ability within their school. Likewise, in www.cea.ace.ca/factsoneducation it has been elucidated that streaming or ‘’tracking’’ means that students are placed into groups defined by their ability levels. Streaming policy has been a bone of contention among teachers and policy makers for many years. Carole Faithorn (2003) lists some of the arguments that are for and against streaming. She observes that certain subjects are hard and would be impossible to teach successfully in mixed ability environment. She goes on to elucidate that students are different and require different teaching approaches. She also claims that mixed ability grouping holds the best students back. On the other paw, she notes that streaming is deeply damaging to child’s self esteem .She goes further to explain that intelligent quotient testing is discredited and totally unfair way to determine a child’s future and prospects. Additionally, she argues that mixed ability groups in comprehensive schools are important in the social development of children and the progressive development of society. Furthermore, she argues that teachers’ low expectation of bottom sets results in less preparation and effort on the part of the teacher. Likewise, teacher labels become self fulfilling prophecies as slow learners are expected to perform badly. Kate Chopin (2012), argues that streaming of students is helpful to all kinds of students be it fast learner, average learner or slow learner. She goes on to elucidate that smart students face more competition, the average students develop confidence in themselves and the weak students don’t feel pressurized and can explore various career opportunities. Kate also notes that opponents of streaming agree that the gifted learners benefit from grouping in programs designed to accelerate their learning. However, Dimartino (2005) argues that while it seems true that streaming is easier and more efficient for the teacher to pitch lessons at the right level besides helping students to reach their potential, it is not possible to place students equitably or accurately into groups based on ability. He believes that the benefits of streaming are questionable when overall research evidence is considered. Dimartino also claims that streaming creates elitism; sets lower expectations for the lower stream students as well as teachers besides wasting time and resources. Hotter (1992), seems to agree with Dimartino’s view observing that any academic gains from ability grouping are too small to be significant. However, Linchevski and Kutscher (1998) reported that a study comparing mixed ability to same ability in the seventh and eighth grade mathematics class in Israel school found that there were significant losses for the middle and low ability students being taught in the same ability classes, and insignificant gains for high ability students. Thus Clark and Plewis (2002) also found that there were gains for the gifted or fast learners in streamed classes, and insignificant gains for high ability students. An analysis conducted by Slavin (1990), found that there were no significant positive effects of ability grouping for any programs except acceleration for the gifted. He excludes from his study those programs which offered different curricula for different ability levels. Mills and Durden (1992) found that within ability grouped class, students are able to contribute more equally to group work, and discuss ideas more easily. Likewise, students’ achievement standards can be raised since teachers can target instruction and use more resources cost effectively. However, he acknowledges that a research shows that grouping by ability has adverse effects on students’ attitudes towards schooling and their self esteem. Additionally, Bladdock (1995), cite several negative effects of ability grouping, especially on students in low ability groups who are frequently taught by less able teachers, cover less content than higher ability classes and suffer loss of motivation and self image. On the other paw, Boaler et al (2000) found many negative effects on ability grouping for the presumably able students in the highest set class. These effects included being taught at a pace two fast for students to grasp the concepts and being taught too prescriptively. There are several challenges faced by the policy of streaming. Firstly streaming assumes that intelligence is not enough to be able to predict pupils achievement in all subjects based on some prior measure. However this is not always the case as research suggests that there are differences in pupil performance over different subjects (Muijs, 1998). Muijs also observes that while correlations between performances in different subjects are significant; they are not high enough to suggest that one is measuring the same underlying concept. Reynolds and Farrell (1996) also points out that one problem with streaming is that it assumes that ability is the determining factor in achievement which is not always the case. He goes on to explain that effort motivation and self esteem can also affect achievement quite strongly. Another problem of streaming as noted by Ireson and Karweit (2002) is that there is a tendency for students from lower socio economic status background and from ethnic minorities to be put in lower streams. In conclusion, this chapter has covered some of the relevant literature on streaming, its advantages and disadvantages. It has been argued from several sources that ability grouping can slightly improve achievement of high achieving pupils, but may be detrimental to low achieving students. Whether streaming is helpful or not, it’s a thing which requires a research to clear all the misconceptions about the subject.

References Johnson, B. (2012) Educational Research, Sage Publications Inc. London. Reynolds, D. (2011) Effective Teaching and Practice, Sage Publications Inc. London Clarke, D. and Clarke, B. (2008) Is Time up for Ability Grouping? EQ Australia, autumn. Boaler, J. (2000) Students experiences of ability grouping. British Educational Research Journal 26(5), 631-648. Linchevski, L and Kutsher, B. (1998) Mixed ability versus same ability grouping in mathematics. Journal of Research in Mathematics Education. 29(5), 533-554 Ireson, J. and Hallam, S. (1999).Is ability grouping the answer? Oxford review of Education. 259(3), 343-358.

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