The use of streaming as a differentiated strategy in middle school mathematics classes: a case study of a private American-curriculum school in Dubai

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Streaming, or tracking, that is, grouping students according to ability is a hotly debated topic in mathematics education. This study aims to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using streaming in mathematics as a differentiated strategy, followed by the following objectives: a) to explore teachers’ perceptions of using streaming; and b) to analyse the impact of streaming on students’ performance.Twenty-eight mathematics teachers at a private American-curriculum school in Dubai participated in a survey; then eight teachers and two mathematics coordinators of the middle stage gave semi-structured interviews. Additionally, document reviews were used to investigate the implementation of streaming in middle school mathematics planning, as well as its impact on students’ performance.A literature review provides context and the history of the subject which showed that some international studies supported the use of streaming as an effective differentiated strategy (Linchevski & Kutscher 1998; Smith and Sutherland 2003).Whereas, other studies did not show enthusiasm toward streaming practice (Loveless 1998;Ireson, Hallam & Hurley (2005). Triangulation in this study (survey, interview and document review) gives an in-depth understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the five years of mathematics streaming at this school. Some advantages observed were: it helped higher achievers’ critical thinking due to more advanced teaching; it facilitated the integration of technology, which made learning more interesting; and it enhanced students’ performance scores in MAP assessment. The obstacles which prevent its successful implementation include the unification of curriculum and assessment among groups; discipline problems due to students’ feelings of frustration from being included in lower groups; and inadequate teacher training in streaming practices. This study contributes to the body of knowledge of streaming in mathematics for middle school students. These findings may guide other interested researches to examine this area from different aspects such as the fixed mind-set, students’ attitudes and the role of parents.
Teaching -- Computer network resources., Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Middle school)., United Arab Emirates (UAE), private American-curriculum school, students’ performance