Differentiation refers to the strategies employed within the classroom in order to embrace the great diversity that teachers face on a daily basis. The opportunity to allow for educational provision for those dealing with learning difficulties or other imposing circumstances is very important and therefore a solid knowledge and understanding in this area of pedagogy is key to a successful classroom (Sage, 2007).
With the implementation of contemporary teaching methods it brings the understanding that a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy is not the best option. This leaves educators with the challenge of identifying students, modifying tasks and subsequently employing strategies for dealing with differentiation (Resources, 2015). Identifying students who require differentiated learning can be difficult as they can range from dealing with cognitive issues and special education needs to additional issues derived from home (culture/race), gender or generalised learning styles and preferences (NSW, 2012).
With the aim of identifying students’ needs as a high priority, the easiest way to do so is by knowing your students and having a great rapport with them. This will enable you to seek their learning styles and feel comfortable asking them about how they like to learn (Education, 2015). Alternatively, one could use diagnostic tools as an aide, such as the questionnaire created previously in this course. However, instead of basing it on prior knowledge, it could be formulated around learning styles or similar.
As the introduction of positive differentiation enters schools, it brings the negative aspects where teachers are unsure of how to differentiate their instruction without it taking away from the actual lesson. Time is certainly a difficulty associated by teachers with this strategy as it requires extra time to individual modify and adjust the classroom and learning to each student. It is also difficult as often schools want to reduce ‘differentiation’ from the point of view that everyone should learn together simultaneously and that there should be no ‘special considerations’ as the students can take that as an opportunity to complain or reduce productivity.
In order to overcome these issues, educators can employ different strategies depending on the learning need. This may just mean differentiating the delivery of content so visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners can all be included (NSW, 2012). It also could mean the teacher needs to provide vocabulary, develop individual goals in terms of their classwork and understanding or provide extra materials (NSW, 2012). In some circumstances, it could require students to receive modified tasks for summative assessment where agreeable within the curriculum and the school.
Differentiation may take extra time and effort on the educator but the rewards are endless. Not only does it provide opportunity for new learning and classroom styles such as collaborative tasks, project (ongoing assessment) or even a more independent style of learning, it allows students to progress further and hold a greater understanding of the topic at hand. In turn, this also boosts students’ motivation as they feel as though their achievement is increasing and therefore hand in a higher quality of work.
In my future classroom, I would endeavour to provide the most quality education for every single student in the room. Whatever I could do to ensure this happens would be high on my list of things to do. An example of this would be if a student in my classroom had an issue with auditory learning and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s’ disorder, I would make sure that I provided all students with written materials and access to the computer work. Similarly, I would ensure that in a group project situation that the students were required to submit written documentation so that he/she would be able to be involved in that process and also continuously understand the task and the groups’ plans at the same time.
To cater for the individual in a room of 25 other students is certainly a challenge, however I believe that is what our job is. As an educator, it is ultimately our responsibility to create a learning environment where every student does just that. If someone is failing to learn, I would feel as though I am not doing my job. There are many frameworks available to ensure that teachers have guidance when modifying their strategies and subsequently employing those in the classroom. I look forward to the future where I can continue to build my own skills in differentiated learning to create the best possible classroom environment I can and aide my students in succeeding to their full potential.
Education, Q. (2015). Teaching and Learning. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from Managing Learning for Diversity: http://education.qld.gov.au/staff/learning/diversity/teaching/teaching.html
NSW, B. o. (2012). Differentiated Programming. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from Support Materials: http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/differentiated-programming/
Resources, U. C. (2015). Course Resources – EDS4406.
Sage, R. (2007). Inclusion in Schools – Making a Difference (2 ed.). New York: Network Continuum Education. Retrieved October 22, 2015