Topic Thread

Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

  • 1.  Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-04-2018 12:44

    Can anyone point me to research on the effect (positive or negative) of ability grouping in World Languages classes?

    Thank you!

    Ryan Rockaitis
    Deerfield High School
    Deerfield, IL

    Ryan Rockaitis

  • 2.  RE: Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-05-2018 07:37
    Hello. I do not have specific Gifted Ed for WL, but this is my go to book for giftedness in schools.

    Davis, Rimm, and Siegel (2011) Education of the Gifted and Talented.

    I did a certification about three years ago on Gifted Ed, so I divided my small groups in all classes into ability groups. My classes are 7th and 8th graders mixed gender learning level 1. The benefits were a pleasant surprise. it was a relief for most of the average students, and the product from the high functioning were the best I had seen in a while. The below and average students had opportunities to be leaders and make meaningful contributions. This year students often choose their own groups which are usually based on ability, but when I do choose groups for them, I still go back to basing them off ability.

    I hope this is helpful!

    Pamela Sanchez

  • 3.  RE: Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-05-2018 09:29
    I can see grouping for ability in literacy (especially writing), but acquiring spoken language is a universal human ability, so it seems odd to think about grouping for ability in that regard.

    I don't think the literature has thought much about that idea thus far, though.

    Terry Waltz, Ph.D.
    SquidForBrains Educational Publishing
    Mandarin through Comprehensible Input

  • 4.  RE: Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-06-2018 10:48
    Hi, everyone. A long time ago one study was conducted that looked at pair work in which they grouped learners by same level versus different level. If I recall correctly, the findings suggested that different level pairings was better. However, I don't remember why this was so or what the study actually measured. I only know that it exists.

    Bill VanPatten

  • 5.  RE: Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-07-2018 09:16
    ​Good morning, Bill,
    Several studies have been conducted on that topic. The reason why it is better is because while the more advanced students support the lower level students, it is through their explanations and recall that they reinforce their own biliteracy. Although this concept is used mostly in describing Heritage Language Learners (Hornberger and Wang, 2008), it is not hard to see how it can apply to all SLLs, as the effect is rather similar.
    Have a good day!

    Ana Lopez-Edwards

  • 6.  RE: Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-07-2018 11:55
    The question of ability grouping in the WL classroom is complex.  Placement tests, even for the novice through intermediate level, often reflect a focus on accuracy (i.e, test items on agreement in gender and number;) knowledge of often low frequency and isolated semantic vocabulary sets (i.e., body parts; school supplies); and output on demand ("Write a paragraph about your school or your family in the TL.")  In this case, placement test results may point up what has been learned in a traditional setting, but not whether there has been acquisition or comprehension of extended chunks.
    In my elementary classroom, I occasionally have native speaker-students, who don't require the kind of exposure I provide in order to acquire the underlying linguistic structure.  Rather, they enjoy being in class to play with the language with their friends, create scenes, stories and dramas, and for these Heritage Learners, the academic component is literacy extension.
    Certain ability groupings are more self evident.  For non-romanized alphabet languages, perhaps it makes sense to work intensively with novices to break the written code.  But once that is laid in, a (limited) range of abilities can enjoy and acquire in the same classroom, so long as the input is compelling and comprehensible...  Each will acquire and develop at his/her own rate.

    Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

  • 7.  RE: Research on Ability Grouping in WL classes

    Posted 03-07-2018 12:25

    Hello Ryan,

    One of the ways to approach it could be looking into learning styles of your students. There are some (and may be many more) studies available in this regard, but here is one of the examples

    One other option, in regard to FL, would be to look into the needs of L2 vs. Heritage speakers.

    This question also could be the one you can share with the SENG (


    Elena Grajinskaya

    Associate Instructor

    2nd Language Training and Research Center

    University of Utah