Student heterogeneity: How to better manage?

Schools generally choose the heterogeneity of students in classes. This allows students in difficulty not to be stigmatized, to benefit from emulation and to be pulled up. Nevertheless, the heterogeneity of students can prove problematic for them: they too often give in to discouragement in the face of failure highlighted by the success of others. How then to ensure that this device, ideally designed to allow a social and intellectual mix, is suitable for both good students and those who are in difficulty  ?

Heterogeneity: definition

The Larousse encyclopedic dictionary defines heterogeneity as characterizing a set composed of elements of different nature, which lacks unity. According to Burns, in a class:

  • there are no two learners who:
    • progress at the same speed;
    • be ready to learn at the same time;
    • use the same study techniques;
    • have the same repertoire of behaviors;                                  
    • have the same interest profile;
    • are motivated to achieve the same goals.

Thus, every class is made up of different individuals. Indeed, since 1975, date of the single college, schooling is compulsory until the age of 16. Thus, all social classes are represented at school.

How to manage heterogeneity in the class?

Make level groups

To better manage the heterogeneity of your classes, often operate by differentiated activities according to levels. It’s time-consuming and labor-intensive for you, but it’s an effective way to include all of your students in your teaching.

  • First step  : clearly delineate the different groups in space; Arrange the tables in columns, as many columns as there are groups (two or three).
  • Second step  : distribute your exercises according to their level of difficulty and empower your students by letting them decide which group they belong to. Spend more time with the group that needs the most help and let your students chat in pairs.

If you do not offer differentiated activities , the most comfortable students finish before the others. So plan for them long-term work in autonomy: production of course reminder posters to hang in your rooms, reading of books or specialized magazines, construction of a common model, etc.

Create heterogeneous pairs

You can work like this to correct evaluations: a student who passed with a student who failed, the first helping the second to understand the points he needs to improve.

Practice differentiated assessments

Students will be assessed on the skills they have successfully acquired during the activity. You will realize this through formative assessments . The advantage is that some students are not immediately placed in a situation of useless failure. If a student asks for the assessment above what you think is their level, do not deny it.

Identify intellectually gifted students

If heterogeneity can be a brake on the progress of pupils with serious learning difficulties , we too often forget that it is also a handicap for intellectually precocious pupils.

Circular 2007-158 of October 17, 2007 has the merit of taking this situation into account. If all gifted students do not necessarily have problems in their schooling, some do however have behavioral problems that can lead to academic failure.

The 2007 circular does not propose any particular aid system, but affirms the need to identify these students as soon as possible, in particular by training teachers, heads of establishments and of course school psychologists responsible for administering tests. youth. It is through this identification that you will be able to act in your classes, to avoid boredom and the dropping out of these little geniuses.

Manage heterogeneity on a class level

The support, refresher or adapted-pace class

If the current trend is towards heterogeneity, the supplement to BO n° 23 of June 10, 1999 does not prohibit the formation of help and support, refresher or adjusted-pace classes, if the number of struggling students is important.

The principle: we identify students in difficulty, without major behavioral problems and we form a small class (18-20 students) with reinforcement in certain subjects.

Identification takes place at the end of the year during the third quarter class councils. The educational teams draw up a list of students who could benefit from such a system. Then the head teachers meet the families, who decide whether to enroll their child in a refresher class for the following year.

The purpose of these somewhat special classes: to consolidate the basics of the student to allow a return to the traditional and heterogeneous class the following year. This device can be set up on the different levels of the college.

Students have less sense of failure. And above all, you can take the time to explain in depth and review unfamiliar notions.

Professional discovery 3 hours

The BO n° 11 of March 17, 2005 allows the opening of an optional professional discovery option of three hours (DP3) per week in ninth grade, entrusted to a multidisciplinary team of teachers. It is a general option open to all and which, unlike other options (such as Latin), does not select students (even implicitly) according to their level. It aims in particular to make students understand that vocational guidance concerns them all. It allows them to discover the business world, the different professions, and to work on their professional project. Thus, for some students, it gives meaning to school.

It is desirable to carry out a promotional campaign by touring the fourth grade classes. If this option already exists in the school, bring one or two DP3 students with you who will talk about it themselves to their classmates. They will ask them questions. Then, interested students will have an interview with the teachers leading the option.

Be careful not to confuse the DP3 with the professional discovery of 6 hours, an option practiced only in vocational high schools. It offers a beginning of professional training.

Your role within the framework of the DP3 is above all that of coordinator.

  • At the start of the year, do a written survey to find out your students’ professional interests. Then prepare the program according to the results. In groups, you will have them do research that they will have to present to their classmates. Change the groups as the activities progress so that all the students have occupied the following different positions:
    • A team leader: who comes to get the information from you and organizes the work,
    • A secretary: in charge of keeping the written record which will be photocopied for the other groups,
    • A rapporteur: in charge of liaison with the other groups,
    • Three performers (for a group of six).
  • Let them know about businesses near them. If you don’t know the place too well, ask the town hall and your colleagues. Instead, target companies that employ a lot of people. Find out about them (press, Internet, etc.). Then phone them to get more specific information and possibly plan a visit with your class.
  • Teach your students how to put together their CV and how to prepare and pass a job interview. Carry out simulations which will aim to train them for the search for their internship in a company, compulsory in third class.


  • Sandrine Maury, Helping pupils in difficulty , 2008, Editions d’Organisation Groupe Eyrolles.
  • DAVID Delphine, How to manage student heterogeneity?, 2006, IUFM de Bourgogne Recruitment competition for school teachers. pdf-link

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