The Relationship of Grouping Practices to the Education of the Gifted and Talented Learner: Research-Based Decision Making

November 1991 Masthead


Karen B. Rogers
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

In this paper 13 research syntheses were described, analyzed, and evaluated to determine the academic, social, and psychological effects of a variety of grouping practices upon learners who are gifted and talented. Three general forms of grouping practices were synthesized: (1) ability grouping for enrichment; (2) mixed-ability cooperative grouping for regular instruction; and (3) grouping for acceleration. Across the five meta-analyses, two best-evidence syntheses, and one ethnographic/survey research synthesis on ability grouping, it was found that: (a) there are varying academic outcomes for the several forms of ability grouping that have been studied (i.e., tracking, regrouping for specific instruction, cross-grade grouping, enrichment pull-out, within-class grouping, and cluster grouping); (b) the academic outcomes of these forms of ability grouping vary substantially from the effects reported for average and low ability learners; (c) full-time ability grouping (tracking) produces substantial academic gains; (d) pullout enrichment grouping options produce substantial academic gains in general achievement, critical thinking, and creativity; (e) within-class grouping and regrouping for specific instruction options produce substantial academic gains provided the instruction is differentiated; (f) cross-grade grouping produces substantial academic gains; (g) cluster grouping produces substantial academic effects; and (h) there is little impact on self-esteem and a moderate gain in attitude toward subject in full-time ability grouping options.

For the two meta-analyses and one best-evidence synthesis on mixed-ability cooperative learning there was no research reported below the college level to support academic advantages of either mixed-ability or like-ability forms. Although no research had been directed specifically to these outcomes for gifted and talented students, there was some evidence to suggest sizeable affective outcomes. Across one meta-analysis and one best-evidence synthesis on acceleration-based grouping options, several forms of acceleration produced substantial academic effects: Nongraded Classrooms, Curriculum Compression (Compacting), Grade Telescoping, Subject Acceleration, and Early Admission to College. Moderate academic gains were found for Advanced Placement. Either small or trivial effects were found for these six options for socialization and psychological adjustment.

It was concluded that the research showed strong, consistent support for the academic effects of most forms of ability grouping for enrichment and acceleration, but the research is scant and weak concerning the socialization and psychological adjustment effects of these practices. Claims for the academic superiority of mixed-ability grouping or for whole group instructional practices were not substantiated for gifted and talented learners. A series of guidelines for practice, based upon the research synthesized was included.

The work reported herein was supported under the Javits Act Program (Grant No. R206R00001) as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. The findings do not reflect the position of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement or the U.S. Department of Education.


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