AbstractThe research detailed in this paper provides a systematic description and analysis of classroomgrouping practices in primary and secondary schools in England. Practices are compared to main findings in developmental and educational literature with regard to effective contexts for learning and recent ideas about pedagogy. The research is based on an analysis of 4924 pupil groupings from672 Reception, Year 2 and Year 5 classes in 331 primary schools and 248 Year 7 and Year 10 classes in 47 secondary schools. The data came from ‘classroom mapping questionnaires’ that were completed by teachers at a particular point in the school day. Completed questionnaires provided information about the nature and use of pupil groupings within their classrooms and focused on the number and size of groupings, type of working interaction between pupils, the presence of adults, grouping composition and the type of task that groupings were engaged with. Results showed that there were changes in grouping practices with pupil age. As pupils increased in age they were increasingly likely to experience whole class ability based sets (tracking) for core curriculum subjects and more formal row/pair seating arrangements. Grouping size for learning decreased as pupils got older. Primary school age children were most likely to work on individual work either alone or with the support of an adult. Extra adult support in classes reduced as pupils got older. Secondary school age pupils were more likely to engage in peer interaction than primary age children. Grouping by ability was common at all age levels. As children got older, classroom tasks were more likely to involve the application of existing knowledge and less likely involve practising skills. At the secondary school level, there were indications that teachers co-ordinated grouping size, working interaction type and learning task. These findings indicate that beyond early primary age the main adjustments to pupil grouping with pupil age are in response to the reduced amount of additional adult support. Changing grouping practices are aimed at maintaining control and on-task attention and maximising individual and teacher directed learning but also, in secondary classrooms only, offering pupils opportunities for peer interaction. r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
oai:International Journal of Educational Research