Investigating and Responding to Attitudes Towards Ability Grouping in Japan

Publication Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

First Advisor

Alex Silverman


In this paper I discuss the debate over ability grouping in education and how it relates to my experiences teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Japan, mainly in a private girls junior and senior high school setting. I provide a brief background of conflicting issues in the debate as well as a variety of viewpoints, including those of researchers, colleagues, and my own. I discuss my efforts to convince teachers and administrators to group students by ability in the EFL classes at the junior and senior high school, which yielded inconclusive results. I provide relevant points of Japan’s cultural context, contrasting the ideals of egalitarianism and competition and the concept of discrimination with regard to innate ability. I discuss in detail my investigation of my students’ attitudes towards ability grouping as revealed in a questionnaire that I designed. I conclude with observations, further questions, and some ways I have found effective in dealing with mixed ability classes.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Sociology of Culture

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