In a previous post on High Impact Teaching Strategies, a key evidence based strategy was Differentiated Teaching  - Extend the knowledge and skills of every student in every class, regardless of their learning readiness. Differentiated Teaching methods ensure that the learning is personalized by challenging students based on their readiness and learning profile. The objective is to increase the knowledge and skill of all students, including those who are lagging behind and those ahead of year level expectations. Differentiated teaching or instruction is a well researched topic and is an evidence based strategy which is found to have a positive impact on learning outcomes. While there are many books written on ways to implement Differentiated instruction, one prominent book is Rick Wormeli's "Fair Isn't Always equal". [1]

Differentiated Instruction mind-set

  • Differentiated Teaching is a combination of structures such as scaffolding, tiering, respectful tasks, flexible grouping, learner profiles, readiness, anchor lessons and strategic application of cognitive principles.
  • It does not mean that learning is made easier for students. Instead, it provides the appropriate challenge that enables students to thrive. If students are becoming too dependent, teachers do whatever it takes to create personal autonomy within them.
  • Classroom management becomes easier as appropriately challenged students are cooperative.
  • High Teacher Student engagement : In differentiated classes, teachers know them so well that they know how to get students engaged with their learning, and they use it. It is a compelling, highly effective approach that is equal parts technical dexterity and professional can-do attitude. Teachers breathe a little easier because they experience students’ learning as a direct result of their decisions, and those students are learning at a level otherwise not achievable through non-differentiated practices.
  • Fair Isn't Always Equal:  The teacher's goal is to be fair and developmentally appropriate, not one-size-fits-all equal.
  • Real World correlation : Real world is differentiated. We gravitate toward careers with tasks for which we have some proclivity and play to our strengths.
  • The high level of commitment  to all students and their learning extends to sound Grading and Assessment.

With the introduction to the rationale behind a differentiated instruction mind-set, we will embark on a 3 part series to delve deeper into its practical implementation based on Rick Wormeli's book. The series will be divided into three major sections:

  • Assessment
  • Grading
  • Implementation

Illustrations of Practice

Watch the video below to understand how a Year 7-9 teacher at Sunshine College , Melbourne, Australia led an initiative to rethink the way her school taught maths. The differentiated teaching methods led to increased learning outcomes in Math for those students. [2]

Differentiated Instruction in practice

References:

  1. Fair Isn't Always Equal - Rick Wormeli

2. Illustrations of Practice  - Differentiated Instruction