Differentiation in the classroom is one of the buzz words you’ll hear in modern educational theory. Principal Jeremy Everhart has been advocating this for the last couple years and teachers at TAIS have been implementing it.
Why is differentiation necessary?
Teachers know that one of the biggest challenges is meeting the needs of the top 10% and bottom 10% of the class. With traditional direct instruction, teachers teach to the middle of the class. The median student and those within one standard deviation of the median will benefit the most. Those who are gifted are typically bored, and therefore, may not have the highest grades in the class. Those who are struggling will not understand very in the lesson because they lack the necessary background knowledge.
What is differentiation?
Differentiation is when the teacher does his or her best to tailor the lesson for each student. Differentiation can be applied to every aspect of the classroom environment including instruction, practice, expectations, product, and assessment.
Instruction: Target Various Learning Styles
Teachers provide a variety of ways to learn the content. Various students prefer to acquire knowledge in different ways including videos and lectures (visual and audio), reading (visual), hands-on projects (kinesthetic), and more. The educator finds multiple ways to deliver content to help all students learn.
Technology in Practice
Recently, many companies have recognized the need for tailoring individual practice to the student’s needs. TAIS employs programs like IXL (math), No Red Ink and Quill (grammar), and Edmentum Exact Path (reading, Language Arts, math) which target the practice to the student’s individual level. Students practice time is maximized because they’re showed work that they need to practice to improve. Once they show mastery of a topic, they can immediately move on to the next. No needless practice problems. If they need more practice, that’s available, too.
Differentiation in Assessments
Assessments are tests, quizzes, projects, and verbal presentations where students show their mastery of a topic. The multiple choice test has been the hallmark of education for decades. The trouble is, it’s not that accurate. Studies show that some students are very good at guessing when they haven’t mastered a topic and other students struggle with reading the questions and aren’t able to show their mastery. There’s no perfect assessment, but the key is variety. By allowing the students to show their mastery in multiple ways, the accuracy of grades increases. When it’s recognized that a student struggles in a certain area (writing for instance) teachers may allow that student to show their mastery in another way, such as verbally. This doesn’t reduce the need for teachers to help students improve all classroom skills, including writing, but it does take the pressure off certain lessons where students are struggling to move on, despite mastering a topic.
These are just a few ways which teachers at TAIS differentiate their lessons to maximize the effectiveness of their instruction. If you have more questions about this topic, be sure to contact us.
21st Century Education
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