Date of Award


Degree Type



Education and Human Services

First Advisor

Schultheiss, Donna

Subject Headings

Mixed ability grouping in education, Learning ability, High school students -- Ohio, Mixed ability grouping, Co-operative learning, Interdisciplinary teaching, Secondary education, Qualitative research


Combining students with different ability levels in the same classes, termed mixed ability grouping, is a controversial educational issue. Advocates of mixed ability grouping see this approach as a solution to meeting the demands of the NCLB Act as well as ameliorating the achievement gap between black and white students. Opponents view the approach as denying gifted students specialized education. The purpose of this study was to understand students' perceptions of their learning environment, their peers, and themselves within an interdisciplinary mixed ability co-operative educational setting and the social justice implications. Research indicates reasons for (Kulik, 1993 Shields, 2002) and reasons against (Slavin, 1988 Burris, Heubert, & Levin, 2006) a mixed ability approach. A qualitalitative analysis of interviews with twelve diverse high school students in mixed ability classrooms within an inner-ring suburban high school in Northeast Ohio were conducted to inform educational practice and policy. These students were all part of interdisciplinary mixed ability co-operative English and history classes taught at both the College Preparatory and Honors level that emphasized social justice (Hackman, 2005). Utilizing grounded theory qualitative research methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), analysis revealed an emphasis on the domains of academic environment, social environment, self-perceptions, and reflection. Students reported that their mixed ability classes provided a challenging and rewarding learning environment. The peer environment helped foster cross-level, cross-race friendships, a positive classroom climate and an understanding of both personal and academic relationships. Participants' personal self-perceptions were positive, validated and challenged by their experiences. They also strongly recommended these classes to peers. This investigation suggests the adoption of an interdisciplinary mixed ability co-operative learning approach in high schools and the re-examination of the purpose of separate

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