Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Differentiation= Successful Teaching"


For those of you that have read my blog, attended my online presentations or have visited my Star Educational Consulting website, you know I am a  big believer in differentiation and meeting the needs of our students. Today, as I was going through my twitter feed I came across a tweet with a link to an article Carol Tomlinson, the expert on differentiation, wrote. The post is titled Inventing Differentiation: A Guest Blog by Carol Ann Tomlinson

One of the things that I have preached is that differentiation is not a fad, but rather at its core is just good teaching. Don’t we want all of our students to succeed in our classrooms, don’t we want to meet the needs of more if not all of our students.  To say that all the students walking into our classrooms are the same is absurd .Would  you want your  doctor to treat all of his patience the same way regardless of their needs.
Ok,well enough of me let’s hear from the expert. Here are some key points from the article:
“I’m puzzled, however, by how many classrooms still proceed as though the differences students bring to the classroom with them are either of little academic significance or an inconvenience.  It's not that we don't see the differences, it's that we often do little to respond to them.

Every significant endeavor seems too hard if we look only at the expert's product. In the beginning, golf pros once regularly hit divots, master chefs initially burned dinner, the wisest parents regularly said foolish things to their children, and renowned surgeons in an earlier time doubted their hands.  The success of all these "seasoned" people stemmed largely from three factors.  They started down a path.  They wanted to do better.  They kept working toward their goal. “
Editor’s Note:  For differentiation or any new endeavor to be successful I think at least two things need to be present. 1. A growth mindset, which tells us we can all change and grow and 2. A culture that supports risk taking and where failures are seen as a necessity to succeed.

“I'm often asked how to get started with differentiation.  I'm inclined to say, "It doesn't matter.  Just start."  That's not helpful, though.  A better answer is, "Study your students.  Work steadily to understand them better as individuals.  Observe what encourages and discourages them.  Listen to the stories they want to tell you.  See how they interact with peers and how the interactions appear to affect them.  Observe their success-to-effort ratio in your class, and how they respond to both errors and successes. Hone in on their strengths.  Get a sense of their fundamental "soundness" with foundational skills that support learning.  As we increasingly understand the distinctness of the humans in front of us, differentiation becomes an informed teaching.”
Editor’s note: See above the note about risk taking and failures. Also this emphasizes the notion that we need to know our students and that we are teaching people and not just subjects.
“We began with the conviction that we could not serve our obviously heterogeneous students if we taught them without regard to their differences.  From that launching pad, we came to five guiding principles.

1) We needed to teach what mattered most in the content for which we had responsibility and in a way that helped students see why it mattered.  We asked ourselves often, "Why are we asking the kids to learn this??"  Textbooks, grades and tests were not acceptable answers.

2) We needed to plan for student engagement.  There was an ad slogan at the time that said, "Medicine doesn't have to taste bad to be good."  We clung to the belief that we could be creative enough to teach whatever needed teaching in ways that appealed to young adolescents.
3) We had to build a sense of community--a team of learners--so that both teachers and students had partners for success.
4) We needed to emphasize the primacy of growth--for every student, every day……..
From those "givens," we made proposals.  "What if we try it this way?"  We shared successes--and lesson plans, and materials.  We became comfortable with saying, "That was a mess.  There's got to be a better way.  Let's look at why this approach worked, or didn't, and go from there."
……were unafraid to fail, and learned to think flexibly.  Everything else was an outgrowth of that sound footing.  The very diverse students who will join us at schools across the country and in much of the world this year need teachers who are determined inventors of mechanisms for helping every learner connect with the power of learning.  In the end, that's what differentiation is.  In the end, that's what successful teaching is.”

If you get nothing else know this Differentiation = Successful Teaching 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great synthesis Akevy!

    A few take aways...

    The first, and for me the most important, is the continued emphasis placed on relationships & belonging. I am in full support that in order for our students to tackle each and every day with a sense of purpose they need to feel they are learning in a community that supports them.

    Differentiation is hard.... it requires a solid understanding of the curriculum & a teacher who is dedicated & knowledgeable in the profession . It is critical in our classrooms to have educators who are passionate about the learning happening in their classroom. They are life long learners themselves and risk takers... because differentiation isn't a one size fits all.

    I have much to think about after reading you post.

    Thanks for the opportunity to really think deeply about something so powerful as personalizing learning in our schools.