Mixed classes: pre-tracking(?) a realization(?)

The achievement of students on whether or not they are mixed together based on their achievement levels, and if there were positive or negative implications of these groups is the central theme of the article by Pivovarova(2014).  This article brought me to a realization that I may have been in such an environment during elementary school.  I find it interesting that the timing of my experience it what I remember being called “quad learning”/”group learning”,  took place during fourth through sixth grade, very close to the grade levels of those in the research. 

“Quad learning” was introduced to us as a way to learn to work with peers, in groups of four desk clustered together, and to assist each other when problem solving, reviewing readings, etc.  Now understanding that I went to a small school, average class size was 25-30 students, and we were with the same group through all classes, but in each course we were assigned different groups of 4.  Looking back on some of my classes and groups I can almost see that we were mixed based on our achievement.  Each cluster had what would be considered in the article, one high, two average, and one low achieving student. Although we did not know this as students, we just knew that this was our group.

Throughout the course of the year, usually after a midterm, and always after winter break, the groups would be rearranged and we would have a new group that we would work with.  I now wonder, was this because of test scores, remixing the groups to maybe put some higher achieving students with a new peer group of average and lower achieving students to see if the new group would improve the others.  I can remember during our group work, that those of us that really enjoyed the topic would be engaged and continue discussion/debate, or would race to solve problems, and those that did not enjoy the topic would work with the group, get the work done, but it was more of a task to check off a list, but asking questions from time to time.

What I find most interesting after reading the article and thinking back to my elementary years, is the fact that after sixth grade, we entered into high school where we took our standardized test, then began our “track”, college prep, agricultural tech, or vocational tech.  Being in such a small school, you pretty much knew who was at the top of the class, and who was not.  Those that were higher achieving went into college prep, and further into advanced placement classes.  The average kids went college prep or a tech class, usually depending on if the family owned a farm or not, and those that would be low achieving went into the vocational tech. 

Overall I really wonder how our groups were decided in my classes. What, if any were the benefits that the teachers and administration saw in these groups?  Especially that after sixth grade there was no more focus on “group” learning and it was all individual work in the classrooms, outside we made our groups and studied, but that was usually more due to proximity of who you lived by, and if they were in your track. 



Pivovarova, M (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them? (unpublished article) Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Tempe: Arizona State University.

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