It was a wonderful experience to interview Miss Chia. I could ask any questions about the English teaching in the past or for today. She was still nice and gentle as usual. I believed that her students would feel the same way. The problems of mixed ability class she mentioned also make me worry, but I tend to look at it in a more prosperous way. It is quite nature to have students with various learning styles, speeds, aptitude, background knowledge, and motivation in the same class. Actually, a mix-ability class could be beneficial. According to Hess, teaching multi-grade can be full of fun. In a mix-ability class, there are many students to interact, to create new ideas, and the teacher would not be the only input in the learning process (2001).
Teachers may think mixed-ability class a burden because they have to do the multiple preparations for a single class. Besides, teachers would be disturbed by the class management instead of teaching itself. Finally, low achievers in classes may feel stressful while high achievers feel boring at the same time. As a result, teachers have no time for activities if they try to meet the needs of both ends. It is true that more time must be spent in organizing and planning for instruction for a mixed-ability class. Extra materials and strategies for different levels of students have to be prepared. As a result, all levels of students can be meaningfully engaged. This additional work requires the cooperation from teachers. If a school could form the cooperative teaching group, each of the teacher can save time and achieve the effectiveness.
It is impossible for teacher to be ready for every student, so the teacher should shares the teaching responsibilities with advanced or responsible students. In Miss Chia’s class, she asked students to study in a group and students could help each other in learning. It is a very helpful strategy in a mix-ability class. The notion is that teachers should also make their instruction and rules clear. Help students cooperate with each others in the beginning. Make them discovery the enjoyment and benefits of sharing with other students.
Students should learn the happiness and responsibility of helping each other and themselves. Teacher is not the only source of knowledge. Like what I observed in school, learning dependently or learning from other students can also be fun and effective. Just make sure that students learn in a cooperative way instead of a competitive way.
Tomlinson (1995) also offer a good idea of teaching mixed-ability class: differentiating instruction. According to her, language should from “concrete to abstract” and “simple to complex.” Moreover, she asserts the importance of continuous test on students’ readiness for the curriculum and revising the teaching plan if necessary. Finally, she says that the teacher should view the student as “active explorer” instead of a receiver.
There are advantages and challenges for mixed ability classes. It is just like the two sides of a coin. The mixed ability class is an existing truth in the educational system. There is no immediate cure to this fundamental problem. However, there are some effective ways to create a better environment for a mixed ability class. In general, be ready to adjust the teaching plan for learners. Of course, it requires the cooperation between teachers. Besides, like what Miss Chia said, keep sharpening one’s professional knowledge and teaching skills. Learn from myself and learn from my peers. I would like to make it as an excellent motto on my road of being an English teacher. Try to understand the interests of students and try to follow their interests could always guarantee one to be a successful teacher.