The development of a child is influenced by many factors. For centuries educators and psychologists have been working on identifying how development happens and how to identify it. At every age certain physical and psychological growth is expected. People like Piage, Bowlby, Watson and others dedicated a number of years if not all their lives to researching the development of children. They came up with different theories to explain it, which were helpful to start understanding a child's development. In this essay streaming differences according to IQ and age are discussed and how streaming can affect the development and life of a child.
When it comes to age, there are periods related to specific developmental expectations. Some age-related development periods are: newborn (ages 0-1 month); infant (ages 1 month - 1 year); toddler (ages 1-3 years); preschooler (ages 4-6years); school-aged child (ages 6-13 years); adolescent (ages 13-20) (Kail 2006). At each of these stages certain development is expected. When talking about 3 years old, things like walking to certain style, talking to certain level and other typical signs of healthy development are expected. When talking about a 12 year old child, more advanced development is expected. Physical and psychological growth differences in a "normal" child can be of great difference at each age stage. To society, it is very important to have the healthy development of children. Therefore it is very important to understand what and how affects child development. Increased research and interest in this field has resulted in new theories and strategies, with specific regard to practice that promotes development within the school system.
Although developmental change runs parallel with chronological age, age itself cannot cause development. The basic mechanisms or causes of developmental change are genetic factors and environmental factors.
There are normal individual differences in the ages at which specific cognitive abilities are achieved, but schooling for children in industrialized countries is based on the assumption that these differences are not large (Patterson 2008). However, among a group of children who are all the same age, some are "smarter" then others. From these kind of observations arose the concept that certain developmental milestones are associated with certain age groups, but individual children develop at different rates. The mathematical relationship between the child's "mental age" and actual age became known as "Intellectual Quotient" or "I.Q." score (O'Neil, 1992).
All scores are really just an estimate of child's true intelligence, since IT is known that every test has an error to it. Any child who performs as well as his or hers peers would earn an IQ score of around 100. One of the common errors is the belief that two children who earned the same I.Q. score are "just as smart" as each other. Even if two children of the same age had the same scores, it is unlikely that they would have got exactly the same items correct on the I.Q test. Their specific strengths and weaknesses may be very different despite having the same I.Q score (O'Neil, 1992).
There is not an absolute agreement on how best to define "intelligence". Likewise, there are different opinions as to how intelligence is best measured. The need to make educational and vocational plans for students makes it necessary to measure intelligence.
One of the best places to see a child's strengths and weaknesses is in educational settings. A typical class has around 30 children, with mainly "average" students. But some students fall out of the norm, either going the way of being "smarter" then the rest of the class or the other way of being a "slow learner". For an average student the lesson may be at the right difficulty level, but the slow learners may find it difficult to be at the same speed and may need more time, conversely the fast learners may find it too easy and get bored. The fast learners may need a more enriching, challenging level of subject. When the needs of students are not satisfied, especially the needs of advanced and slow learners, development in some ways can be affected. That is why psychologist and educators are trying to find the right way of streaming children, to prevent as much as possible negative effects on a child's development while at school.
One of the arguments is that children with great difference in I.Q should be in a class of children with the same or similar I.Q, believing that they need the same level of instructions, and therefore use their potential to the full without affecting their self-esteem. (Hereford 1993). This kind of grouping would make planning and resources much easier. The other advantage is the work of the students is only compared to that of similar-ability peers.
According to supporters of tracking system (Kulik and Kulik 1992), students with higher abilities achieve more highly than similar ability students in non tracked classes. In another study, Argys, Rees, and Brewer (1996) found that high-track students' achievement was affected negatively when integrated with lower-ability students in a class. Both of these studies suggest that tracking is beneficial to high-track students. Low ability students can also be encouraged to do better in class since they don't feel intimidated by the higher ability students.
Those who opposed tracking system, (Liu, Wang & Parkins 2005) argued that labelling students and grouping them according to their IQ or academic abilities can result in negative growth and development of children. They argue that more attention is given to children with higher IQ by providing better qualified teacher. Teachers are more enthusiastic and better at providing explanations in higher track courses then in lower track courses. It could be due to the belief that children with lower IQ are not capable of dealing with slightly more challenging work. Oakes and Lipton (1985) found that in high-track classes, the material used and the concepts taught require extensive critical-thinking skills, whereas in low-track classes teachers tended to refer to just workbooks and not often enough assign work that requires critical thinking. High-track courses tend to be much more intensive and more in depth than low-track courses, as one would expect. By not gaining the knowledge and skills of the upper students, (presuming they could if not placed under a grouping system) the students of low-track class are put at a disadvantage for college acceptance (Oakes 1985).
The other part of child's development that is greatly affected at school is social development. The relationships that children form at schools, the way their perceive themselves and others is influenced greatly by engaging with other schoolmates.
Some studies suggest that streaming students according their I.Q or ability level can influence their attitude towards other students. Gamoran's study (1992) shows that students are more likely to become friends with students in the same group than students from other groups. Since low-class and minority students are overrepresented in low tracks with Whites and Asians generally dominating high tracks, interaction amongst these groups can be discouraged by grouping system.
The grouping system can result in stigmatization of low-track students. In some cases, this stigmatization is thought to have a negative impact on students' academic performance and to influence students' attitudes. One study done on low-achieving students found that students in tracked classes were more likely than students in non-tracked classes to believe that "their fate was out of their hands" (Liu 2005).
Both teachers and parents begin to view students according to these labels; once tracked by ability, students seldom break out of the initial labels assigned to them at an early age. Some teachers favour the tracking system because it makes their work easier, even if it is not the most effective way to serve students (Ansalone & Biafora 2004). Their finding is interesting considering that another study (Yonezawa & Jones, 2007) found that students regarded grouping as unfair and not justifiable. In response to the negative outcomes of the tracking system, many schools have begun to move towards age grouping while still maintaining high standards of teaching. Students of the same age regardless of what their I.Q level is are taught in the same class. If a child is doing distinctively better or worse at certain subject, then either the teacher assigns more challenging or less challenging coursework to them or the child moves for that particular subject to the relevant age group. This king of grouping would provide an adequate level of learning as well as the right social interaction (Winebrenner & Devilin 1991).
Research has also addressed the effect of having children divided according to their I.Q or ability grouping versus age related grouping on students with special needs. Students with special needs, like other students, need interactions with peers, maybe even more the other children. This would give them the opportunities to develop higher-level thinking, recognition of their contributions, and it would give them equal access to quality instruction. Research done on lower achieving students and students with special needs in age related grouping has showed a positive effect on their academic achievement (Slavin, 1990; Villa & Thousand, 2003). As well as noted by George (1997), gifted learners can be adequately taught in age related classrooms.
Mulkey, Catsambis, Steelman, & Crain (2005) supported the Hence, Braddock (1990) argument on schools developing flexible criteria which allow students to decide if they want to take on challenging classes. Mulkey et.al. (2005) found positive linkage between students' freedom to make academic choices and their academic performance.
Although the effect to provide the best academic teaching has been made, there are other factors that can influence a child's placement and growth. The economic situation of families as well as the school can have a huge impact on class formation. The assertion of teachers quite often depends on their abilities, experience and status. The number of students overall can play a part in grouping. Schools in small villages, where there is small number of student all together would have a different class formation to class formation in schools of hundreds of children.
There is clearly a need for additional research regarding streaming children in schools. George & Alexander (2003) have proposed that teachers and researchers conduct local studies on the effects of streaming. National research findings are often overly impersonal and meaningless to local educators and citizens. It is important to insure that researchers across nation, when talking about I.Q, ability grouping, streaming and classroom organisation, are talking and perceive it in the same way since different ways of understanding these terms can cause confusion and cause incorrect results. One of the major issues is the relationship between I.Q and academic achievement. Many psychologists and teachers believe that I.Q. tests are racially, ethnically, culturally, and socio-economically biased, and do not necessarily measure those skills or potential which will ensure either success in schools or success in life.
When conducting research it is important that control groups are used as much as possible, as suggested by Mulkey et.al.(2005), so that the effects of the grouping arrangements can be comparatively evaluated. Unfortunately, experimental evidence on the question of I.Q, age and development is bewilderingly diverse. Until research with strong evidence arises, with a number of replications proving it sound, there will be disagreements amongst educators, researchers and teachers regarding the right developmental streaming.
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