I am a student in college right now and for field experience I am tutoring at a local middle school. I want to know what your thoughts are on the AVID program. If you haven't used the AVID program maybe you have used something similar. The AVID program takes students who are willing to participate and actually sign an agreement between themselves, their parents and teachers. During one block of time during the school day these students come to a room and group off in about seven students per group and proceed to work on a problem that they have had a hard time understanding. The purpose of this group is to have the other students and the "tutor" only ask questions that will help the student with the problem figure it out by themselves. My specific questions are:
1) What are you doing/have done to keep students interested and on track?
2) What improvements have you seen?
3) Any additional problems brought on by this grouping?
4) How do you handle diversity within the group (mainly the educational gap but all types of diversity would be helpful)?
Here is the website for the AVID program
This sounds a lot like collaborative learning - and gives the chance for students to interact with other students while the teacher facilitates and provides guidance and direction. I'd personally like this approach to learning if I was a student, and I can see the merits at a middle school level - as they're in a place where learning to interact and communicate clearly is a life-skill worth honing.
I've taught middle school, and while I've not used the AVID approach you describe here, I'm aware of some of the complexities of working with middle-school students - which are relevant to your question. I'd also compare these against your locale. Middle school students are at a place where they're trying to figure themselves out - let alone a teacher figure them out - in order to help them learn. This could provide for a messy learning experience, but I think it could still be beneficial for some students, esp. if they're electing to be involved and 'contracting' to do so.
I want to say the diversity across a middle-school demographic could be beneficial - having older students help younger ones can help older students shore up their confidence in an area that they're good at, while helping younger students see that they have a need for (and possibly help) older students with issues they face. Hope this helps.