Struggling Students in Low Ability Grouped Classrooms: Standardized Assessments and the Uphill Battle

By Sharifah Md Nor, Ramlah Hamzah, Arshad A.Samad, Kamariah Abu Bakar, Othman Mohamed, Rohani Ahmad Tarmizi, Wan Zah Wan Ali, Abdul Rasid Jamian, Norhayat Marzuki and Siti Suria Salim.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Most Malaysian secondary schools practice ability grouping or streaming, where students are placed together in a classroom based on their academic performance. These students need to sit for two important public examinations at the secondary school level. This results in the school system putting much emphasis on examinations and pose problems for teachers teaching weak classes. This paper aims to discuss various aspects of the lower streamed classrooms in terms of the teaching approaches and problems their teachers face teaching them. Teachers’ practices and problems are investigated through their report of their problems and teaching approaches. This study employs the survey research method involving 28 schools identified as at-risk by the State Department of Education. Approximately 1,025 Form Two students placed in two lowest streamed classes and 151 teachers teaching the core subjects were purposively sampled. Data were analyzed descriptively. The findings of the study showed that teachers’ teaching approaches are influenced by their perception of their students’ needs, abilities, behavior and the needs of the examination system. The findings suggest that while teachers are aware of interesting and effective pedagogical approaches for these students they find it difficult to practice them due to the lack of learning skills of the students, the passive and sometimes disruptive classroom conditions, and the preoccupation with covering the wide syllabus and the standardized public examinations. Teachers’ teaching approaches generally involve drills, note taking and memorization of facts and less effort are expended at increasing learning as well as thinking skills of these students. The findings suggest that the lack of flexibility in the education system does not auger well with the education of struggling students. The standardized examinations, the low abilities of the students not rectified by early intervention programs and the learning environment of the weak classes make teachers’ work difficult. This means that the present streaming practices, early intervention programs and the standardized examinations policies need to be regarded as problematic and to be reassessed in order that teachers in secondary schools can serve their students better.

Keywords: Struggling Students, Low Ability Group, Teaching

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp.9-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 584.088KB).

Dr. Sharifah Md Nor

Professor, Department of Education Foundation, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Serdang, Malaysia

Sharifah Md Nor is a professor in Sociology of Education in the Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia. She obtained her B.A. (Hons.) degree from the University of Malaya in 1971, and Diploma in Education at the same university in 1972. She obtained her Masters degree in Education in 1977 from the University of Wisconsin USA and in 1985, she was conferred the Doctor of Philosophy in Education by the same university. She teaches courses pertaining to the field of sociology of education to both graduates and undergraduates. Apart from teaching, her other passion is research. To date she has been involved in 40 research mainly in her area of interest. Of these 14 researches were consultancy research undertaken for the Ministry of Education and other funding agencies. She is currently the Director of C.A.R.E. (Children At-Risk in Education) Centre of Excellence. The centre is involved in research and project relating to at-risk children.

Dr. Ramlah Hamzah

Assoc. Professor, Department of Science and Technical Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Arshad A.Samad

Deputy Dean, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Arshad Abd. Samad completed his high school education at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar, Perak. He holds a doctoral degree from Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA which he received in 1999 and Master and Bachelor degrees from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. He was appointed as a lecturer with University Putra Malaysia in 1990 after serving as a teacher at the Raja Ali Secondary School in Kampung Batu in Kuala Lumpur from 1985. Currently he is a senior lecturer and serves as the Head of Department at the Department of Language and Humanities Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He is involved in research and publication in the field of Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), especially in grammar instruction, language acquisition and testing. He is also involved in various levels of consultancy work including programme evaluation of several local universities as well as for government and private agencies. Among his publications are Essentials of Language Testing for Malaysian Teachers (2002) dan Perspectives of Grammar in Education (2003).

Dr. Kamariah Abu Bakar

Professor, Dept. Science and Technical Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Kamariah Abu Bakar currently is professor in science education at Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Dr. Othman Mohamed

Professor, Department of Guidance and Counselling, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, serdang, selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Rohani Ahmad Tarmizi

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rohani Ahmad Tarmizi, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Wan Zah Wan Ali

Assoc. Professor, Department of Foundations of Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Abdul Rasid Jamian

Lecturer, Department of Language and Humanities Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Faculty of Educational Studies, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Dr. Abdul Rasid bin Jamian. His teaching career began in 1985 as a primary school teacher and in 1999 he became a secondary school teacher. He used to hold the Cocuricular Senior Assistant post. He is currently a senior lecturer in Language and Humanitarian Education Department at Educational Studies Faculty, UPM. The fields that he is involved in are The Teaching of Malay Language and Malay Language Development. He has done many researches involving education particularly in the Teaching of Malay Language. In the year 2006, ha has won the Silver medal in the Exhibition Researches and Inovation, UPM (Malay Language Teacher Pedagogical Among the Weak Students). Specialize publishing in Teaching of Malay Language, Malay Language Development, and Education. Now he his a College Master for Second College, University Putra Malaysia.

Norhayat Marzuki

Lecturer, Department of Science and Technical Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia

Siti Suria Salim

Lecturer, Department of Foundations of Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Conference Attended/Participated (2004) National Conference on Graduate Research in Educatian 2004 (GREDuc 2004). Writer& Presenter. Tittle: The Preparedness of Teacher towards The Implementation of Smart School Approach.11th July 2004. Resident Hotel Uniten Bangi, Selangor. Co writers: Prof.Sharifah Md. Nor Nasional Forum of The Family with Special Needs 2004. Participant.24th July. 2004.Malaya University Kuala Lumpur. National Seminar on Education Among At-Risk Children. Participant.19th February 2005.Country Height Sports Living Club, Kajang, Selangor Research (2004)(On-Going) Research Title Year Start Sponsor/Cost Status Teachers Craft Knowledge 2003 IRPA/RM250,000.00 Member Indicator as Complements to University Entrance Requirement 2003 IRPA/RM226,000.00 Member An Examination of Teaching Practices, Learning Needs and Climate of At-Risk Students Dec. 2003 IRPA/RM279, 000.00 Member

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