The Matthew effect for mixed-level classrooms

book-bible

I recently read about the Matthew effect in this post by Paul G Moss: apparently, there is a sociological term based on the New Testament (hence Matthew) which describes how the rich get richer and the poor get even poorer. In the context of education, the Matthew effect results in more cognitively challenging tasks, more development, better learning and better jobs for those learners who have access to more knowledge – and vice versa. Even though the quotes seem to relate to social equality and opportunities for learners of all backgrounds, I’m wondering: is there really some kind of mini-Matthew effect in ELT? If you speak English a little better, you sit with a stronger student, you get a more difficult task together, you develop faster, you get better assessments and you can move to a higher level – possible? Is it what learners are thinking when they are not happy about sitting with a weaker partner?

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