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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

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Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs


Grouping Practices for Effective Student Achievement

A recent study of reading research, funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs and conducted by researchers at the University of Miami, has linked some methods of instructional grouping to increased achievement for elementary school students with disabilities. Overall, the research showed that the use of instructional grouping formats, especially student pairing, had more positive effects on students' reading achievement than whole class instruction.

The researchers found that peer-mediated instruction represents an especially promising complement to other instructional practices. Although cross-age tutoring was not found to be particularly effective when students with disabilities are the tutees, students with disabilities derive considerable benefit from tutoring younger students. The researchers note that such tutoring can be effective in producing better reading outcomes for students in both general education and special education classrooms, and other studies have shown that it has the potential to improve the social relationships of children.

The study relied on meta-analysis, a way of looking at many research studies on a specified topic to get an overall picture of research results on that topic. Based on the criteria of the meta-analysis, 20 research studies conducted between 1975 and 1995 were included. The effects of three types of grouping format on the reading achievement of students with disabilities were compared. The three types of grouping format were pairs (including same-age peer tutoring, cross-age peer tutoring, and cooperative partners), small groups, and multiple formats (the systematic use of a specific combination of two or more different formats). For tutoring interventions only, the study also examined whether being the tutor or tutee made a difference in the student's learning.

For more information on this research, see "Grouping Practices and Reading Outcomes for Students with Disabilities," by Batya Elbaum, Sharon Vaughn, Marie Hughes, and Sally Watson Moody in Exceptional Children, 65(3), Spring 1999.


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Last updated: May 2, 1999

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