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Ability Grouping

  • By: Cecil D. Robinson, Gina Raineri, Sloan Wilkinson & Patti L. Harrison
  • In: Encyclopedia of School Psychology
  • Edited by: Steven W. Lee
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), School Psychology, Educational Psychology

Ability grouping is a broad term used to describe a set of educational practices that sort students for instructional purposes based on their perceived learning capacity, as measured by achievement tests, cognitive ability tests, past academic achievement (i.e., grade point average), and teacher recommendations. Historically, ability groups were developed in response to the long-standing belief that the cognitive development of different students occurs at sufficiently different rates to require unique curricula and separate instruction (Oakes & colleagues, 1992). Through these differentiated instructional and curricular conditions, ability groups were originally designed in an attempt to improve instruction for all students based on their diverse capabilities.

Ability grouping is of great interest for school psychologists for a myriad of reasons. Some type of student grouping is present in ...

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