There is an overwhelming amount of research regarding homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping in education. The former refers to the practice of grouping "like" students together (regarding age, ethnicity, gender, ability, etc.), while the latter refers to the practice of grouping "unlike" students together.

My particular interest is to compare these practices restricted to as many of the following points as possible:

  • Undergraduate mathematics education
  • Small, intra-classroom groups
  • Grouping based on perceived ability (e.g. placement test scores)

Any research (or anecdotes from experienced teachers) approximating this scenario is most welcome.

  • $\begingroup$ This is not really a question about mathematics, is it? $\endgroup$ – Rasmus Jul 19 '13 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Rasmus I am interested in the topic only so far as concerns mathematics education. $\endgroup$ – Austin Mohr Jul 19 '13 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ (mathematics) education is indeed a tag, @Rasmus $\endgroup$ – Namaste Jul 19 '13 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy: One can create a tag whenever one wants -- that does not make it on-topic. Nothing about education is mentioned here: math.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic $\endgroup$ – Rasmus Jul 19 '13 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Rasmus Well, nearly 500 folks have "created" an education tag. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Jul 19 '13 at 20:15

I am an experienced high school mathematics teacher - an analogy can be made between how senior maths classes are structured and what you are asking.

It is quite common in secondary education systems to group students according to abilities in their senior years, an example is in the International Baccalaureate, where students are grouped in classes that are taught increasingly complex mathematical topics. The same type of differentiation exists in several Australian state systems (as an example). Perhaps this is something you could look into.

Having taught in these systems, I can see some benefits, primarily that students with a similar interest and skill level are brought together. A key factor in these groupings I have found, that is absent in the younger undifferentiated classes (once again, analogous to an undifferentiated undergraduate class), is that the students often share the same motivation for mathematics.

Hope this helps a bit.

  • $\begingroup$ "...students are grouped in classes that are taught increasingly complex mathematical topics." So the grouping you speak of is used to allow those with ability/interest to pursue more challenging subjects? My particular concern is how to group students within a single class for the purpose of collaborative learning. While homogeneity would afford me some measure of opportunity for differentiation, does the fact that these students are basically heading to the same end (they will all be taking the same final exam, for example) lessen its utility? $\endgroup$ – Austin Mohr Jul 19 '13 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ Even within the groups I describe, there are different levels of ability and motivation (it is almost impossible to achieve true homogeneity in a classroom). With that in mind, often the more able students are set to work with those less so. he more able students 'tutor' (in class) the students who may normally struggle. I have found that this works particularly well for both the more and less able students. $\endgroup$ – user83622 Jul 19 '13 at 23:16

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