A study of the elements affecting within-class grouping in catering for learner diversity in Hong Kong secondary economics lessons

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum reform in Hong Kong has resulted in an increase in learner diversity in the secondary school classroom. For economics teachers, dealing with this diversity is complex. In order to cater for learners’ differences, within-class grouping is widely employed in economics lessons, as observed by the author in her role as a curriculum officer for the Education Bureau. However, previous studies suggest that such grouping arrangements may not work effectively in contexts influenced by Confucian heritage culture (CHC) such as Hong Kong. This apparent conflict stimulated the author to explore the students’ differences and elements affecting grouping arrangements in Hong Kong secondary economics classes. The research was conducted using a case study methodology, involving interviews with three secondary economics teachers, focus groups with students and class observations. Due to school suspensions because of COVID-19, almost all data were collected online. Notwithstanding the constraints of having to collect data in this way, the findings of this study can contribute new understandings of learning and teaching in economics in the Hong Kong context.

Findings of the study suggest that academic performance is the most noticeable difference in students. Such difference is perceived to be related to students’ ability, prior knowledge, and achievement motivation. The findings also show that elements such as group composition, group task design, and teacher’s style can positively enhance students’ learning and cater for learner differences. On the other hand, gender, age, language barrier, and class size may impede the implementation of grouping. Finally, the over-emphasis on public examination results rooted in the CHC of the local context appears to have the greatest impact on the implementation of grouping and may weaken its effectiveness. The findings of this study provide insights into how to manage learner diversity in secondary economics classrooms in Hong Kong and have the potential to contribute to curriculum development and teachers’ professional training.
Date of Award24 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorLucy J Wenham (Supervisor) & Sheila M Trahar (Supervisor)


  • within-class grouping
  • learner diversity
  • secondary economics lessons

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