Sociology notes

Banding. Also known as tracking, streaming or ability grouping, is a practise in education when students are divided into academic groups according to their abilities. Though the terms “tracking” and “ability grouping” are often used interchangeably, Gamoran (1992) differentiates between the two. He uses the term “tracking” to describe the manner by which students are separated into groups for all academic subjects, but “ability grouping,” on the other hand, is the within-class separation of students into groups, based on academic ability. High ability groups are often assigned special work that is more advanced than that of the other students in the class.

- it allows teachers to better direct lessons toward the specific ability level of the students in each class
- it separates students by ability, students’ work is only compared to that of similar-ability peers, preventing a possible lowering of their self-esteem
- it helps direct students into specific areas of the labor market
- encourage low-ability students to participate in class since tracking separates them from intimidation of the high-ability students
- low-track classes tend to be primarily composed of low-income students, usually minorities, while upper-track classes are usually dominated by students from socioeconomically successful groups. this might be due to labelling of students and judging by their social status
- in practise it's very difficult to divide students into correct groups and find real potentials
- the curriculum will differ a lot in different streams

Kulik and Kulik (1992) found that high-ability students in tracked classes achieved more highly than similar-ability students in non-tracked classes.
Argys, Rees, and Brewer (1996) found that high-track students’ achievement dropped when lower-ability students were integrated into the same class.
Oakes (1985) found that in high-track classes, teachers often used course materials and taught concepts which required extensive critical-thinking skills, whereas teachers in low-track classes tended to draw heavily from workbooks and rarely assign work that required critical thinking.
Gamoran’s study (1992) shows that students are more likely to form friendships with other students in the same tracks than students outside of their tracks. Jeannie Oakes theorizes that the disproportionate placement of poor and minority students into low tracks does not reflect their actual learning abilities.

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