Nurturing learning or encouraging dependency? Teacher constructions of students in lower attainment groups in English secondary schools

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Abstract

'Ability' or attainment grouping can introduce an additional label that influences teachers? expectations of students in specific attainment groups. This paper is based on a survey of 597 teachers across 82 schools and 34 teacher interviews in 10 schools undertaken as part of a large-scale mixed-methods study in England. The paper focuses on English and mathematics teachers? expectations of secondary school students in lower attainment groups, and explores how low-attaining students are constructed as learners who benefit from specific approaches to learning justified through discourses of nurturing and protection. The authors argue that the adoption of different pedagogical approaches for groups of low-attaining learners to nurture them may in some cases be fostering dependency on teachers and cap opportunities for more independent learning. Furthermore, more inclusive whole-school learning-culture approaches may better allow for students across the attainment range to become independent learners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-68
Number of pages16
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Volume49
Issue number1
Early online date22 Mar 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Ability grouping
  • independent learning
  • labelling
  • setting
  • teacher expectations

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