Jump to content
The Education Forum

Streaming according to Singapore


Jean Walker
 Share

Recommended Posts

Interesting article from the TES website

Taking the stigma out of streaming

Jan Trebilcock

Streaming in schools benefits under-achievers, according to new research from Singapore.

The study, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, found that children in lower ability classes had greater academic self-esteem than those in higher groups.

Researchers think they may have benefited from a ‘big fish in a little pond’ effect, while those in higher ability groups faced more pressure and competition.

They concluded that streaming is not detrimental to the self-esteem of children in lower sets and does not stop them ‘facing the future with confidence’.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, welcomed the findings saying that belief in mixed ability classes was always misplaced.

He told the Daily Mail: “To say there is a stigmatising effect for those in lower ability classes is Left-wing nonsense”.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, welcomed the findings saying that belief in mixed ability classes was always misplaced.

He told the Daily Mail: “To say there is a stigmatising effect for those in lower ability classes is Left-wing nonsense”.

hhhmmm... old-fashioned, right-wing reactionary pillock outlines foul views in extreme right wing rag.

Some years ago Seaton accused progessive teachers of treating children as a,

"captive audience on which to imprint an ideology that not everyone agrees with".

This of course is pure projection on the part of Seaton who wants schools to teach obedience, deference to authority and religion ..... or in other words 'an ideology that not everyone agrees with'.

His website suggests that education should be "hierarchical" hence his commitment to streaming I suppose. The working class must learn its place somewhere after all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The study, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, found that children in lower ability classes had greater academic self-esteem than those in higher groups.

This of course goes against every other piece of research carried out on this subject. I suspect Seaton and his willing right-wing messengers have misunderstood the research findings. What I suspect the researchers really said was that a very small group at the top of the low ability groups did better than they would have done if they had been in a higher group. This is a well-known feature of streaming. The positive self-image of being at the top of the group counteracts the effect of being in a low-ability group. This is not true of the vast majority of the group who suffer from low self esteem because of the impact of labelling.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do people still read 'How Children Fail' by John Holt?

What's really frightening about the book is that it was written about experiences in the late 1950s. I reckon that Holt has the answer to this particular question too - pupils who're at the bottom of any heap will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid any more blows to their self-esteem … and to win any temporary advantages over people they can put lower down in the pecking order than they are themselves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The study seems to be more about long-term self-esteem than academic achievement:

Abstract:

Background. Although several studies support the existence of a negative stream effect on lower-ability stream students' academic self-concept, there is not enough longitudinal research evidence to preclude the possibility that the stream effect may only be temporary. In addition, not much is known about the effect of streaming on changes in students' academic self-concept over time.

Aims. The main aims of the study were to examine the effect of streaming on (a) the students' academic self-concept immediately after the streaming process, and at yearly intervals for 3 consecutive years, and (B) the changes in students' academic self-concept over a 3 year period.

Sample. The sample comprised 495 Secondary 1 students (approximate age 13) from three government coeducational schools in Singapore.

Method. A longitudinal survey using a self-reported questionnaire.

Results. Results showed that the lower-ability stream students had a more negative academic self-concept than the higher-ability stream students immediately after streaming, but they had a more positive academic self-concept 3 years after being streamed. In addition, it was established that the students' academic self-concept declined from Secondary 1 to Secondary 3. Nonetheless, the decline was more pronounced for the higher-ability stream students than the lower-ability stream students.

Conclusions. Streaming may have a short-term negative impact on lower-ability stream students' academic self-concept. However, in the long run, being in the lower-ability stream may not be detrimental to their academic self-concept.

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1348/000709905X42239

Affiliations: 1: National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 2: University of Nottingham, UK

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't see streaming as a left-wing or right-wing issue - although it appears that most educationists do. I regard myself as left of centre, but to me streaming is a matter of commonsense rather than political ideology. Some subjects lend themselves well to mixed-ability teaching, e.g. those subjects where projects can be set at different levels for different sub-groups.

Mixed-ability teaching falls down, however, when a skills element as opposed to a knowledge element of the subject comes to the fore. I would hate to have learned how to ski in a mixed ability group. I got in a terrible tangle with my skis in the early stages of learning, while younger and fitter members in my group had few problems and were executing their parallels with ease after a couple of days and making me feel a right wally. I was glad to see the back of them when they were moved up to a higher group, allowing the instructor to give people like myself, i.e. slow learners, more attention.

As a language teacher, I don't have much faith in 100% mixed ability teaching. OK, I could handle project work, e.g. getting the kids to work in pairs searching for vocab, cultural background info on the Web or doing different types of listening exercises in a computer lab, but live role-plays can be a nightmare. In a single group of 30 kids you have some kids at one end of the scale who understand one word in ten and cannot make an accurate utterance of more than two consecutive words, and the the other end of the scale you have the bright sparks who understand everything and can whack out accurate sentences with fluency. In my experience this leads to chaos.

Judging to what extent mixed ability teaching works in modern languages is difficult in the UK. So few people reach a respectable level in modern languages (CEF B1) that it is difficult to come to conclusions. A quick search on the Web seems to indicate that mixed ability and streamed classes in modern languages are roughly equally divided in schools in the UK. The result: Most Brits end up tongue-tied when they go abroad and are incapable of putting their knowledge of modern languages to practical use. It's getting worse rather than better these days.

See the Institute of Education article:

"Success of mixed ability classes depends on what you teach"

http://ioewebserver.ioe.ac.uk/ioe/cms/get....578&4578_0=3424

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Results. Results showed that the lower-ability stream students had a more negative academic self-concept than the higher-ability stream students immediately after streaming, but they had a more positive academic self-concept 3 years after being streamed. In addition, it was established that the students' academic self-concept declined from Secondary 1 to Secondary 3. Nonetheless, the decline was more pronounced for the higher-ability stream students than the lower-ability stream students.

Conclusions. Streaming may have a short-term negative impact on lower-ability stream students' academic self-concept. However, in the long run, being in the lower-ability stream may not be detrimental to their academic self-concept.

This is meaningless unless we have some actual figures. Are we talking about all students in “lower-ability streams”, 90%, 80%, 70%? We really need to know why the results are so different from all previous research and the experiences of most teachers.

My grandson is 5 years old. He is already being streamed and sits on the top table with others who have been classified as being the “brightest” in the class. He is fairly bright but I suspect that it is more to do with the fact he can read and is articulate. It also does not hurt that he speaks with a nice middle-class accent (unlike me). This is not really surprising given the background he comes from.

This decision to place him on the top table has also influenced his friendships. He now plays with the boys on his table rather than the boys on the other tables. It is not only the children who are influenced by these teacher judgments. One of the mothers was telling me at the weekend how they have accepted their son is not very bright (she works as a teaching assistant in the class). At the age of 5 this boy is being condemned by our obsession with measurement and streaming.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Results. Results showed that the lower-ability stream students had a more negative academic self-concept than the higher-ability stream students immediately after streaming, but they had a more positive academic self-concept 3 years after being streamed. In addition, it was established that the students' academic self-concept declined from Secondary 1 to Secondary 3. Nonetheless, the decline was more pronounced for the higher-ability stream students than the lower-ability stream students.

Conclusions. Streaming may have a short-term negative impact on lower-ability stream students' academic self-concept. However, in the long run, being in the lower-ability stream may not be detrimental to their academic self-concept.

This is meaningless unless we have some actual figures. Are we talking about all students in “lower-ability streams”, 90%, 80%, 70%? We really need to know why the results are so different from all previous research and the experiences of most teachers.

My grandson is 5 years old. He is already being streamed and sits on the top table with others who have been classified as being the “brightest” in the class. He is fairly bright but I suspect that it is more to do with the fact he can read and is articulate. It also does not hurt that he speaks with a nice middle-class accent (unlike me). This is not really surprising given the background he comes from.

This decision to place him on the top table has also influenced his friendships. He now plays with the boys on his table rather than the boys on the other tables. It is not only the children who are influenced by these teacher judgments. One of the mothers was telling me at the weekend how they have accepted their son is not very bright (she works as a teaching assistant in the class). At the age of 5 this boy is being condemned by our obsession with measurement and streaming.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would never ever advocate streaming in primary school, probably not even in Yr 7, although many maths teachers seem to support streaming in that subject by then and I can certainly understand Graham's arguments in relation to languages. I cannot imagine achieving much success teaching a foreign language in a Yr 9 or 10 class with students who cover the whole bell curve of ability. Do we put that range of students into a university lecture on physics? I agree with Graham, in senior classes in some subjects with the numbers teachers are faced with it is simply common sense, otherwise everyone suffers from a too difficult job. In primary, the teacher has a group of students almost all day every day and can juggle group work, individual attention differentiated approaches etc, but a secondary teacher may have 30 students ranging from intellectually impaired to highly intelligent for 40 minutes four times a week in a specialised subject such as maths or science or languages. It is highly unlikely that truly individualised programs catering for the entire range can be provided. I honestly believe that anyone who thinks they can, is either fooling themselves or is a genius. The point is always made that streaming students affects their self-esteem and that is what prevents them from learning. This study of secondary students seems to be saying that although it may in the short term, it doesn't last. The actual figures can probably be got from the full study - what I posted was the abstract.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn't advocate streaming at primary school level either.

When I began teaching full-time at secondary school level in 1968 I was thrown in at the deep end. The first and second year French classes (in a 4-class intake at a mixed gender grammar school) were unstreamed. Mixed ability teaching for the first two years was departmental policy. I found it extremely difficult, as the chosen method at that time was audio-lingual, with a major emphasis on listening and speaking and with no reading and writing in French at all until the first five lessons of the 20-lesson course (covering one academic year) had been completed. Use of English in the classroom was discouraged. Meaning was to be derived from context and from role-plays - and mostly the kids got the wrong end of the stick.

The clever kids (mostly girls) progressed very quickly, leaving the slowest learners (mostly boys) miles behind after the first term's teaching. After one term's teaching we had kids at one end of the class who could pronounce and understand every single word and phrase correctly, and who scored 90% in oral vocab tests. At the other end of the class we had kids who were completely tongue-tied and could not understand the simplest of French phrases, and who scored zero in oral vocab tests. Banning the writing of French for the first five lessons was an added complication. I played the game according to the rules (as laid out in the teacher's handbook for the course) and watched out for kids taking notes, but the clever ones made notes under the desk to help them remember vocab, devising their own French spelling system: thus "Ça ne fait rien" ended up as "sanfairyann" or something similar. This made it more difficult to introduce the correct French spelling system.

The exam results were a disaster at the end of both year 1 and year 2 of teaching French. Nevertheless, the audio-lingual method was hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread at the time, and many teachers claimed great results. It held sway during the 1950s and 1960s was finally discredited as a method by the early 1970s and replaced by a method based on the Functional-Notional Model (Communicative Competence) as recommended by the Council of Europe.

This is our problem in teaching foreign languages: continually changing fashions in methodology and changing emphases on the four skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing. Reading and writing are probably the only two skills that can be taught successfully in mixed ability classes. See:

Decoo W. (2001) On the mortality of language learning methods. Paper given as the James L. Barker lecture on 8 November 2001 at Brigham Young University [Online]. Available at:

http://www.didascalia.be/mortality.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the audio-lingual method was hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread at the time, and many teachers claimed great results. It held sway during the 1950s and 1960s was finally discredited as a method by the early 1970s

Having been brought up on the grammar-translation method, I found audio-lingualism a nightmare. During the school year 1968-1969, when I worked as an English Language Assistant in a lycée in central France, I decided to attend a course of lectures for foreigners at the local university. Language laboratory courses were on offer at intermediate and advanced level. With the arrogance of youth, I decided on the advanced course. Hubris soon had its consequences. In the first lesson, over my headphones, I heard 30-word sentences in the present tense which I had to repeat with each verb converted to the perfect tense. Desperately I looked around in my booth for a bit of paper with the sentences written down on it. I could do the verb transformation easily, but I couldn't remember the remainder of the long sentence. As I stumbled, the disembodied voice of the teacher at the front of the lab intoned with a mastery of the obvious: "Vous êtes britannique, n'est-ce pas?" Humiliated, I never returned to the course. This is the first and almost only time when I have given up doing an educational course on which I was enrolled.

I also echo Graham's point that bright children will make up their own spelling system if their introduction to the foreign language is purely oral. It's absurd to expect literate students to ignore the writing system of the language they are being taught. There is hard evidence from the USA that many high-functioning foreign language learners with dyslexia will cope if they are taught the rules of the foreign language's sound-symbol correspondence explicitly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...