Best Practices

New Series Scrutinizes Instructional Practices with the Research Behind Them

A new series of "bite-sized" monthly articles from the Learning Accelerator is examining learning science of various instructional practices. The Learning Accelerator is a nonprofit that promotes professional development for teachers and site leaders to help them learn how to use personalized learning to improve education.

The latest installment of "IgnitED Research," as the series is named, specifically looked at the power of grouping students who are at different levels of academic skill. The research has shown that working in small groups is effective and, generally, the smaller the group, the better. Yet, wrote Learning Accelerator researcher Saro Mohammed, research has also shown that grouping by ability isn't always "the best or equitable approach." While "same-ability" groups might be easier to put in place and could benefit the higher-achieving students, "mixed-ability" groups, she noted, "benefit all students, especially lower-achieving ones."

Her guidance: First, mix it up. " Students should have opportunities to learn in a variety of settings, including mixed-ability groups," Mohammed noted. Second, she recommended, apply technology. While the teacher can use it for tracking groups and roles from one project to another and communicating with students about their group participation, students can use it to take on different roles (note-taker, timer, researcher).

Additional articles in the series have examined the research behind effective feedback and the "myth of learning styles."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.