Thompson in her “Summary of research” suggests that “there are different classes or different groups within classes for students of high, average, and low ability” (Para 2). Thus, some individuals within a class may be slow learners, some may be of average ability and some may be high-performers or gifted individuals. In particular, the paper focuses on the characteristics, challenges, opportunities and pedagogical approaches which may be experienced by students with varying abilities within a classroom.
In a class with these different groups the slow learners may not have the required cognitive skills that are needed to perform simple task. In fact their cognitive level may be below the chronological grade for the specific learning behavior. In addition, such learners may take a longer time to grasp the basic skills that are needed to perform at an acceptable level. Whilst these elements may be true of the slow learner, this in no way defines who they are and their capacity to learn and achieve acceptable goals. The second ability level, the average learners are those who are normal in the sense that they are able to learn within their chronological grade level. Given a classroom of students, average learners are those who are able to grasp the concepts through the general methods adapted by the general educator.
On the other end of the extreme are the high achievers who are able to cognitively grasp concepts at a rate that is exceptionally faster than the normal child’s ability to understand. Some special challenges that an educator may have to overcome to accommodate a group of students with mixed ability include the challenge of delivering one’s lesson to allow each individual to understand the intended objective. Because some students are slow to grasp they may be unable to grasp abstract concepts that the teacher is required to deliver. The teacher then is challenged to bring these abstract concepts to the level of all the students. At the same time that the teacher is trying to convey the lesson to the slow learners the teacher has to present some challenge to all the learners, thus simplifying an abstract concept for the benefit of the slow learner may cause challenges for the high performer. For example, lack of challenging activities may result in boredom and subsequently inappropriate behaviors by the high achievers if they are constantly kept back due to the teacher’s inability to communicate the lesson to them whilst simultaneously catering to the needs of the slow learner or the average learner. Special learning opportunities which may be offered by the presence of mixed abilities within a class include for the slow learner the opportunity to be motivated by the presence and the assistance of the high performers. Likewise, it is claimed that the more you teach the more you are able to understand the concepts (Thompson, n.d.). Thus, the high achiever is able to concretize what is taught by assisting the slow learner to grasp concepts that may be difficult for the slow learner or the average learner. One way in which an educator can accommodate each difference in a mixed ability group would be to incorporate the use of different resources within a lesson. For example, in a Mathematics lesson which involves the teaching of how to solve word problems. A teacher may begin such a lesson by utilizing dramatization to allow pupils to actually see the problems unfold before their eyes. The use of manipulatives in the drama is particularly instrumental in bringing understanding to the slow learners. Although this dramatization is to meet the needs of the slow learners, the average as well as the high achiever