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Matching Classroom Tasks to Students' Attainments

Neville Bennett and Charles Desforges
The Elementary School Journal
Vol. 88, No. 3, Special Issue: Schoolwork and Academic Tasks (Jan., 1988), pp. 220-234
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1001953
Page Count: 15
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Abstract

The problem of assigning tasks appropriate to students' attainments has become a major issue in British classrooms. The aims of this article are to discuss the theoretical perspectives that can improve our understandings of task assignment in classrooms and to present evidence from 2 major studies that highlight both the extent of the problem and possible causes. The first study provides evidence that teachers tend to underestimate the high attainers in their classes and overestimate low attainers, i. e., to assign work in which the demands are too easy for the former and too hard for the latter. The reasons for this are complex and include inappropriate classroom management strategies, lack of adequate identification of students' problems, and a concern for mechanical progress at the expense of student understanding. The second study investigated in more depth teachers' perspectives during task assignment and highlights the compromises that teachers must inevitably make in their interactions with students and tasks. Finally, the implications of these findings for improvements in classroom practice are considered.

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