The grouping of students by academic achievement level has been practised in a wide variety of forms and contexts for over a century. Despite a general consensus in the literature that between-class achievement grouping provides no overall benefit for students, the practice has continued in various guises. Currently between-class achievement grouping is quite common in high schools, particularly for mathematics, and is also practised in some primary schools in Australia and overseas. This study examines both the academic and affective outcomes of between-class achievement grouping in literacy and numeracy lessons in small samples of Australian primary schools. It also investigates the relationships of regrouping with teacher attitudes, classroom climate and classroom practices. A mixed method study was used to provide a comprehensive examination of the regrouping practice. Results from state-wide Basic Skills tests and Quality of School Life surveys are compared between two groups of schools - one set that regroups students for these areas, and the other set in which students remain in a mixed-achievement class for all subjects. Interviews with teachers and principals as well as classroom observations provide additional information which is combined with the achievement and affective outcomes to complete a rounded picture of regrouping practices and outcomes. Results indicate that the regrouping strategy affects teacher attitudes and is inhibitive of desirable teaching practices such as differentiation and knowledge integration. It is argued that the current regrouping practice closely resembles streaming and provides no apparent academic advantage although there may be some positive affective outcomes related to student perceptions of their quality of school life.
University of Newcastle Research Higher Degree Thesis