Issues in Educational Research
Institutes for Educational Research
School of Education
Ability grouping of students into separate classes within a school can be called ‘between-class ability grouping’. This practice has persisted in Australia despite evidence that it is socially inequitable and does not improve academic outcomes. A systematic review of peer-reviewed literature about between-class ability grouping in Australia from 2012-2022 reveals only N=28 papers that meet the inclusion criteria. These papers are critiqued and synthesised into four main findings that characterise Australian research about between-class ability grouping from 2012-2022. The findings reveal a lack of substantive inquiry with most studies having limited scope and drawing on outdated or overly generalised data. International studies gloss over vital details about how between-class ability grouping is practised in Australia, while research conducted from within Australia reflects enduring tensions between gifted and talented, and social equity agendas. Further research that characterises the range of Australian grouping practices and their effects on students could be used to inform decisions about how to group students into classes in secondary schools.
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