ERIC Identifier: ED434435 Publication Date: 1999-08-00
Author: Burnette, Jane Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA. ERIC/OSEP Special Project.
Student Groupings for Reading Instruction. ERIC/OSEP Digest
Increasing diversity in the classroom has presented teachers with the
challenge of providing appropriate reading instruction for all students in their
classes, who may represent a variety of ability levels and cultures. In contrast
to past practices, more of today's students with disabilities are receiving
reading instruction in a general education classroom instead of a special
education classroom. This practice can be expected to increase, since the 1997
reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
provides support for educating students with disabilities in the general
education classroom and ensuring their right to access the general education
Under these conditions, teachers need to know the best ways of organizing
their classrooms and grouping students for instruction in order to maximize
student achievement. Ability grouping, long a standard practice in reading
instruction, has been criticized for lowering self-esteem and motivation among
students with reading problems, and it often widens the gap between high and low
Research funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has
identified a number of alternatives to whole-class instruction and ability
grouping and provided information about their effectiveness. Such grouping
formats include peer (same-age) tutoring, cross-age tutoring, small learning
groups, and combined grouping formats. Some of these studies have employed
meta-analysis, a way of looking at many research studies on a specified topic.
The research shows that these alternative groupings produce better reading
outcomes for students with and without disabilities than whole-class
Peer tutoring has repeatedly been found to be
an effective method of teaching reading to students with disabilities. While one
meta-analysis (Mathes & Fuchs, 1994) found that students with disabilities
made greater gains in reading when they served as tutors, another (Elbaum,
Vaughn, Hughes & Moody, 1999) found no difference between whether the
students with disabilities served as tutor or tutee. Furthermore, research has
shown that students with disabilities can perform effectively either as tutors
or tutees, as well as in a reciprocal tutoring role. Reciprocal-role tutoring
may offer an additional benefit of boosting students' self-esteem through the
teaching role. Use of this technique requires an understanding of the process,
organizational planning, training of tutors, and careful monitoring.
A recent meta-analysis (Elbaum, Vaughn,
Hughes, & Moody, 1999) revealed that students with disabilities derive
considerable benefit from tutoring younger students. However, it shows less
benefit for tutees, whether or not the tutors have disabilities. Students with
disabilities who were tutored by older students did not appear to benefit
academically from this type of tutoring. Using this technique requires more
planning, since students tutor children who are at least one grade level lower.
Like peer tutoring, this technique involves tutor training and careful
monitoring to ensure that both tutors and tutees are benefiting from the
SMALL LEARNING GROUPS
Small group reading instruction has
been shown by many research studies to be more effective than whole-class
instruction, but most of these studies did not include students with
disabilities. Breaking the class into teacher-led groups of 3 to 10 students
helps students learn significantly more than when they are taught using whole-
class instruction. Smaller groups appear to be better- groups of 3 to 4 students
are usually more efficient than larger groups of 5 to 7 students in terms of
teacher and student time, lower cost, increased instructional time, increased
peer interaction, and improved generalization of skills.
This practice requires teachers to plan and organize groups and to adapt
instruction, methods, and materials for small group use. Benefits are greater
when the materials are tailored to the needs of different students. Students
with disabilities may require different materials and more direct instruction
than students without disabilities.
COMBINED GROUPING FORMATS
Using a combination of formats
produces measurable reading benefits for students with disabilities. For
example, a teacher may use whole-class instruction for a part of each period,
and have students work in pairs for 2 days and in small groups for 2 days.
Although combined formats have not yet been studied extensively, they appear to
offer promise for inclusive teachers and their students.
This ERIC/OSEP digest is based on the work of Batya Elbaum, Sharon Vaughn,
Marie Hughes, Sally Watson Moody and Jeanne Shay Schumm. For more information,
see Elbaum, B.,Vaughn,S., Hughes,M., and Moody, S.W. (Spring 1999). Grouping
practices and reading outcomes for students with disabilities, Exceptional
Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Mathes, P. & Simmons, D.C. (1997). Peer-assisted learning strategies: making classrooms more
responsive to diversity. Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 174-206.
Jenkins, J.R., Jewell, M. O'Connor, R.E., Jenkins, L.M., & Troutner, N.M.
(1991). Accommodations for individual differences without classroom ability
groups: An experiment in school restructuring. Exceptional Children, 60(4),
Mathes, P.G., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L.S., Henley, A.M. & Sanders, A. (1994).
Increasing strategic reading practice with Peabody classwide peer tutoring.
Learning Disabilities Research and Practice,9(1), 44-48.
Moody, S.W., Vaughn, S. & Schumm, J.S. (1997). Instructional grouping for
reading. Remedial and Special Education, 18(6), 347-356.
Mathes, P.G., & Fuchs, L.S. (1994). The efficacy of peer tutoring in
reading for students with mild disabilities: A best-evidence synthesis. School
Psychology Review, 23(1), 59-80.
Lou, Y., Abrami, P.C., Spence, J.C., Poulsen, C., Chambers, B., &
d'Appolonia, S. (1996). Within-class grouping: A meta-analysis. Review of
Educational Research, 66(4), 423-458.
Simmons, D.C., Fuchs, L.S., Fuchs, D., Mathes, P., & Hodge, J.P. (1995).
Effects of explicit teaching and peer tutoring on the reading achievement of
learning-disabled and low-performing students in regular classrooms. Elementary
School Journal, 95, 387-408.
Swanson, H.L., Hoskyn, M., & Lee, C (1999). Interventions for students
with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis of treatment outcomes. New York:
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