I in high ability mathematics students. I felt

I came across inclusion in my GPP placement on my
first day when the children were streamed into different classes depending on
their mathematic ability based on their academic performances. The group I
would be teaching were the higher ability children from across the two year six
classes which included many gifted children. Ability grouping v’s mixed ability
grouping in schools has long been an ongoing debate with research finding mixed
evidence for and against ability grouping. A study by Whitburn in 2001 found no
evidence to support that children learn more effectively in ability
group in mathematics, however counter evidence argues that mixed ability
grouping can be detrimental to higher ability children as teachers and support
staff spend more time helping lower ability pupils (Bremner, 2008).

Throughout my observation week I soon realised that
streaming children according to their ability, specifically in mathematics
worked really well as all children were able access their learning and were
stretched to reach their full potential. Although the three ability groups
covered the same work, ability grouping allowed me to challenge the higher
attainders with high level teaching whilst the lower ability groups slowed down
the learning so they were able to grasp the concepts before moving on. I found
this worked especially well for the higher ability groups as appropriate,
achievable targets were set for each child, without these targets being too
daunting for other children. 

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Although the children within my class were all of a
higher; it was clear there were still different abilities within the class of
30. I found the gifted pupils in my class often found the work too easy, boring
and repetitive which Koshy (2001) found can happen in high ability mathematics
students.  I felt some of the students
were not being challenged enough, especially those who had finished the planned
lesson work. Those who had finished were given an ‘extension task’ which most of
the time was another sheet of questions of the same type which meant children
were often completing unnecessary work they were already secure on just to fill
the rest of the lesson time.

I realised that although the school did lot to
support the inclusion of SEND and LA children, gifted pupils often seemed to be
forgot about. I thought it was important to challenge the gifted pupils to
strength their knowledge and get them to apply what they had learnt in that
lessons to word problems or creative reasoning than simply repeating work they
had already covered in that lesson. Working in the HA class gave me the
opportunity to explore mastery in mathematics which was brought into the new
curriculum in 2014. Although practice and consolidation plays a vital role in
understanding mathematical concepts and pupils were able to answers sheets of
questions and get them all correct, I found pupils often could not explain why
they had answered the question; they simply just knew how to answer the
question. Challenging work should give pupils the opportunity to explore the
current topic in greater depth using varied and frequent practise to deepen
their understanding. I did this in several ways throughout my placement such as
children creating word problems for their talk partner to solve, whilst their
partners had to find the correct answer and be able to explain how they knew
they were correct.

I decided children needed to learn more about
building proficiency and the underlying concepts of mathematics which would
enable them to explain why and use mathematic reasoning to justifying concepts.
After weeks of practise, children were soon able to explain concepts in their
own way, using their own examples and go onto apply this knowledge to realistic
problem solving contexts through investigative work (Sfard, 2002, NCETM, 2013). Through precise
questioning I was able to check the pupil conceptual and procedural knowledge
of the topic.

In my opinion, I found streaming children according
to ability, especially in mathematics in this school worked well. I think children
were able to reach their full potential by working alongside children of a
similar ability as the majority of children could move at a similar pace
throughout lessons without any one getting left behind. However, on the other
hand, streamed grouping is not a very inclusive approach as ability grouping
can lead to stigmatisation, low self-esteem and low expectations which can be
self-fulfilling (REFERENCE).  I think using mixed ability groups
(children’s normal classes) for all other lessons was also beneficial to
children as this allowed children to feel they were of an equal level to each
other which allowing them to feel secure and that their contributions are
valued.

Social
interaction in mixed ability classes.

Vygotsky’s socio-cultural
emphasises
the importance of social interaction in the development of cognition as when children are active participants in the classroom
this results in higher mental functioning which enhances their learning
(Vygotsky, 1962). Social interaction between peers within the classroom has been
found to be more effective in improving the achievement of
students compared to individualistic learning (Smith, 2010).

Throughout my placement I observed the class teacher use a traditional
approach to teaching known as Initiation-Response-Feedback (IRF), where he
initiated the majority of conversations within the classroom by asking
questions and then he would pick a child to answer. However, I found when he
did this method of teaching not all children were being challenged as many pupils often sat back
knowing that others would answer. I realised that it was the same children
answer the teacher’s questions a lot of the time, which was usually the
children who were sat on the higher ability table which meant not all children
were included in the learning. There may have been different reasons for this
such as children not knowing the answer; however it could have been that
children of a lower ability felt intimidated by those who always answered and
could have felt their answer was not as valued as their classmates.

As using IRF meant only a selection of pupils were actively involved and
participating in class discussions, I decided to introduce the use of lolly
sticks into lessons. Each child had a lolly stick with their name on it so all
children knew they could be picked and so everyone became an active
participator as all children were required to think deeply to make a
contribution in a discussion. The use of lolly sticks helped to successfully
implement inclusion within mixed ability group lessons as children were given
equal opportunity to participate and share their responses with the class. I
found children, especially those who I had not seen get involved in class
discussion on my observation week enjoyed having their ideas listened to as
they began to feel more valued as part of the class. Whilst also realising that
the children who normally always answered the class teacher’s questions using
the traditional hands up approach became more supportive and ??? of their peers.

Although research has found that the assistance of a teacher is still
needed when pupils work collaboratively as without an adults input conversation
between pupils often lacks cognitive challenge (Mercer, 2007),
conflicting evidence has found that teachers should not always hold the
power of conversation by initiating the questions and deciding on the direction
of the discussion. Dialogic teaching which is now regularly used across school in the UK
focuses on the importance of talk to stimulate and extend children’s learning
and understanding (Alexander, 2006).  According to Alexander too much focus is
placed upon on Initiation-Response-Feedback between the teacher
and pupils during every day teaching in the classroom and it is the aim of
dialogic teaching to move away from IRF.

Throughout my placement I experimented with different ways of
encouraging greater participation and discussion. One of these ways was by
starting pupils off with a few structured questions and allow pupils time with
their talk partners to talk through the answer to ensure it does not feel
daunting if their lolly stick was to be pulled out and they were unsure of the
answer. I then moved onto pupils constructing their own questions and posing
them for their peers to answer which moved away from typical IRF. Children were
able to construct different types of questions and all children included and
actively involved in their learning.

Another way in which schools have moved on from too much focus on IRF is
through the use of Kagen structures within the classroom. Kagen strategies
promote inclusion within the classroom as pupils, usually seated in
heterogeneous groups of four, teamed according to their ability, race and
gender where possible work together to achieve a common goal (Kagen, 1994).
This structured approach to leaning allows students to work together through
equal participation and simultaneous interaction meaning all children are
included and are responsible for each other’s learning.

Although many schools have begun to use Kagan strategies, my GPP
placement did not use them in the year 6 class I was placed in, however I
suggested to my mentor that I tried using Kagen strategies across two English
lessons I was teaching on balanced arguments. I began by changing the seating
arrangements of the English lesson; moving children from their ability tables
into tables of four children; one high ability, two middle ability and one
lower ability. The first balanced argument lesson was based around discussion
between peers and I found the Kagen structures worked really well for peer
tutoring and support. Whilst walking around the groups during discussion time I
witnessed students encouraging and supporting one another whilst also building
on each other’s ideas. As the children were
used to working in ability tables in English lessons, I found
all children were actively engaged,
included, and challenged because of the change in the lesson style. I felt all
children enjoyed working in mixed ability groups whilst the lower ability children
felt supported by the others in their group and higher ability children felt
challenged as they were developing their high-level thinking by explaining
their learning to children with different points of views. 

English
As An Additional  Language.

Within
the class I was working in there were several SEND children, specifically one
with ASD and one with dyslexia, these children received extra support in class
through the TA and class teacher and also received interventions from other
LSAs across the school such as reading interventions and individual reading.
Within my GPP class there was also a child who had English as additional
language (EAL) (Child A); however I was surprised to see he received no extra
support from a TA.

The Department for Education (2003) defines pupils with EAL
as pupils who have access to multiple languages or those whose first language
is not English.
As there is a significant increase in the numbers of EAL pupils in schools
across the UK, it is important for schools to use strategies to ensure children who are EAL can access the National
Curriculum as their monolingual peers do.

To
encourage quick integration into their new schools, an initial language assessment should take place with pupils with EAL when
they first arrive at school (Parker-Jenkins, Hewitt, Brownhill and Sanders,
2007).  This was done with Child A when
he enters my GPP placement in September and he was placed in the middle ability
groups for both Maths and English based upon his spoken English. Child A had
good Basic
Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS) however he struggled with academic
English such as his comprehension and written English and so can be described
as having Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).

I found Child A often interrupted lessons with constant low
level disruptive behaviour such as talking to his peers or swinging on his
chair and not paying attention and I began to wonder if his understanding of
English was the underlying issue of his behavioural issues. I noticed, especially
in English lessons that it would take Child A a long time to settle down to
work and still he would not produce a substantial amount of work by the end of
the lesson, instead he would constantly be trying to distract his peers.

As
Child A was in the middle ability English group, he received very little
support from the teacher or TA after the initial input. After having worked
with Child A for a few sessions and asking him about his learning, it was
obvious that Child A struggled to comprehend what he had to do and although he
had excellent spoken English he struggled to write his ideas down on paper. He had very low self-esteem which in turn was having a
detrimental effect on his academic achievement as he was producing very little
work. The class teacher then made the decision to move Child A into the
lower ability group so he could access this work with TA support. Although
Child A felt the work was ‘too easy’ for him, I felt setting him short,
achievable activities with clear instructions helped his confidence grow as he
was now beginning to complete work by the end of a lesson. To further help
build Child’s A confidence, the class teacher and I worked on different
strategies which included working from a multidisciplinary approach and presenting work in a
more visual way.

I
think having Child A in my class made me realise that although a child may have
very good spoken English, they may struggle with their work which could present
itself as bad behaviour in lessons. I’ve learnt it is important to be prepared
to explain things in different ways for children who have EAL and that it is
important to use different resources in order for inclusion of children with
EAL to be successful and this is something which I would like to do further
research on in the future.

 

 

 

 

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