By Victor Ochieng’

Lou Holtz sagely said, “Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

Michael Jordan observed: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championship.”

Schools that perform well in academics focus on ability grouping and bring practical strategies on board.

A school that is well-staffed should even know teachers who can handle different ilk of students based on abilities. For in some sense, a staff or a particular department is like a football team. For the team to score and scoop victory, every team member should know whether s/he is a stupendous striker, middle-field star or a deft defender.

As one of the Best Academic Practices, there are five approaches to ability grouping.

  1. General Ability Group

In this model, the school constitutes streams based on the general academic ability of students in the candidate class. In a class of 150 students, the school can come up with three streams – top, middle and bottom class. With the knowledge of Labeling Theory in Sociology of Education, the naming of the streams must be done carefully. Again, Pygmalion Effect, also known as Rosenthal Effect, should take centre stage. As a self-fulfilling prophesy, it is a psychological phenomenon in which high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area.

As a trained teacher of English Language and Literature, I can focus on what I learnt in Introduction to Psychology and Psychology of Education; more so in types of learning, that this could be the best way to take care of individual differences in learners. It can help the teachers to push or fatten the head, as they cut or reduce the size of the tail. Those who have cache of experience in teaching and the noble art of dispensing knowledge, know that there is nothing challenging like teaching people with mixed abilities, or even people on extreme ends. That is why we must think about all the abilities: We must guide the A-Finders to show their shine and sheen. As we also lift the rising stars from the ashen ashes of defeat and despair.

In the whole scheme of things, teachers should be careful on how they introduce ability grouping to students so that they don’t balkanise and antagonise the class based on academic potential. If it is not well-thought-out, the bottom class may decide to engage in self-pity and weld themselves together as a caboodle of foolish candidates; who have been resigned to museums of failure.

To veer off a bit, just like a family set up, children are not wired the same. Some are made of cotton. While others are made of silk. But they all belong to the same parent. Like the fingers of a human being, children are different. Therefore, a wise parent employs different parenting skills and styles. Only doltish parents use the same script in the theatre of parenting. Yet, by and large, you cannot raise the last born the way you brought up the first born. Change in climes and times, call for change of tact. After all, the sage said: You cannot use old maps to trace new towns. The Scientific genius called Albert Einstein observed: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

  1. Subject Ability Groups

In this approach, subject teachers group students according to the performance in their subjects. They should go ahead and organize one-on-one incisive conferencing sessions with each group.

  1. Academic Villages

In this case, students are put together based on their common targets or aspirations. This style can take care of repeaters, prefects, peer counsellor, top students, et cetera. Teachers should be mandated to take care of every village and to push the group to operate at their ultimate best. Some schools have students who are high achievers, who in real sense, can feature in the top 15 or 100 in national ranking. This caliber of candidates should be pushed and  made to stretch beyond elastic limits or else they can choose to become complacent, settle for less and be prone to mediocrity.

  1. Parenting Groups

The school can come up with group discussions, which can also act as family units. All students to be assigned teacher-parents to help them set targets. There should be regular meetings to provide direction, focus and keep them on the right track. Candidates should never be left to operate on laissez faire. Teachers’ eternal vigilance, surveillance and constant monitoring is of supreme importance.

  1. Students pairing

In this category, weak candidates should pair with top achievers. As the high fliers commit themselves to help the struggling students through peer teaching, they attain marvellous mastery of content. In the long run, this infusion and collation of abilities props up the poor performance of average students.

The writer rolls out performance-enhancement talks for the candidate classes. He trains teachers on Best Academic Practices, and Effective Management of the Candidate Class.  [email protected]. 0704420232




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