Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom essay

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(Brown, nd)

Brown lists 'labor intensive' strategies for differentiation to include those as follows:

Assessment, data analysis, and diagnosis;

Flexible grouping;

Tiered tasks;

Anchor activities;

Differentiated learning encounters;

Learning contracts;

Independent study. (Brown, nd)

The work of Jahnine Blosser (2005) entitled: "Unit of Lessons: Safety in the Secondary Science Classroom" states that there is "a growing need to make all students understand science and the relevancy of science to their lives." Blosser notes that "many students learn differently from others and need a different instruction or enhanced instruction." (2005) Blosser states that a single classroom may contain "students who can read and comprehend at college level as well as those who have trouble simply decoding words." (citing Tomlinson, 1995) Because of this it is "paramount that teachers use different strategies to reach and challenge all learners. Differentiated instruction can help a teacher do this." (Blosser, 2005) Blosser states that differentiated instruction is supported "by many different instructional strategies" including "attention to real world experiences, emphasis on thinking skills, flexible grouping, group investigation and stations..." (2005) Through use of the differing methods of curriculum delivery all students "with their different abilities should be able to understand the concept of safety in the science classroom and transfer that knowledge to the real world events that might impact them in the future." (Blosser, 2005)

Blosser reports having put together a series of safety lessons, some of which she created and some that she borrowed from others. These lessons are stated to "incorporate differentiated instruction techniques as well as literacy techniques to help all students in a classroom to succeed." (2005) Blosser reports that the unit begins "...with a pre-assessment to check what students already know and to get them thinking of the topic of safety in science and in the world. The next lesson in the unit consists of a reading selection from a newspaper that students will read and discuss. The discussion questions consist of one question from each of Bloom's taxonomy levels. This allows for higher level thinking, but students are doing it as a flexible group so no one person feels intimidated by the higher level questions. The third lesson is a group investigation of substance identification and cleanup using MSDS sheets. In this lesson, students will use investigative skills to identify a spilled mystery substance and then "clean up" up the spill according to the MSDS specifications. The fourth lesson will be a video on safety that students will watch and then fill out exit slips to leave class on an overarching question that comes from the video. The fifth lesson will consist of an anticipation guide on a reading selection about how mistakes or accidents in the science lab lead to great discoveries. Finally, the culminating project will be to represent what the students have learned in some sort of media format. The project could be a poster, power point, dance, song, or skit; whatever the student might choose based on their specific type of intelligence. The project and its rubric would be introduced early on in the unit so students could be thinking about what they might want to do at the end." (2005)

The work of Sirinam S. Khalsa (2004) entitled: Differentiated Instruction: How to Reach and Teach all Students" states that differentiated instruction makes the assumption that "one size doesn't fit all." Khalsa states that classrooms that fail to employ differentiated instruction address only a segment of a student's potential as a learner. Teachers who use differentiated instruction embrace the inherent strengths of diversity, which is an integral part of all mixed-ability classrooms. These strengths include acknowledging the differences among students while recognizing their similarities. This acknowledgment eventually becomes an essential part of teaching and learning." (2004) Khalsa states: "In all classrooms, teachers have students who are inattentive and easily distracted, as well as those who are eager to learn and easily engaged. Ineffective teaching approaches each type of student with a broad stroke towards presentation and instruction." (2004) the example provided by Khalsa is: "...in traditional classrooms, teachers ask a question and then call on an individual student to respond, while the rest of the class, which includes the inattentive, easily distracted students and English Language Learners (ELL), are expected to sit quietly and listen to the interchange. Effective teachers differentiate their questioning strategies for today's classrooms. These differentiated strategies encourage high response opportunities for all students and active participation, with all students having a voice that is heard and respected." (2004)

Khalsa (2004) notes that another approach for differentiated of instruction is that which is termed "universal design" which is the adaptation of the means for a student's "...presentation, process and engagement." Differentiation of instruction is "thinking outside of the box." (Khalsa, 2004) According to Khalsa, differentiation of instruction "...challenges the teacher to approach the art of teaching from different perspectives while maintaining the goal of student achievement. In the differentiated classroom, the teacher comes to the understanding that learning is constant, but the time and way it is reached are changeable. The goal of differentiated instruction is to help all students make sense of the information presented so they can use the information in a meaningful way. Differentiated instruction offers a variety of ways to acquire, process, and apply the information being taught. In a differentiated classroom students engage in activities which provide a balance between skill building and purposeful tasks." (2004)

Khalsa writes that teachers in today's classroom are "...challenged to change old habits of "one size fits all," or undifferentiated, instruction, to offer a variety of instructional experiences that are focused on essential-to-know concepts and skills as identified in state and district standards. Differentiation requires the teacher to be knowledgeable of the content being taught, as well as skilled in the basics of pedagogy. The focus is on the orchestration of productive learning environments for all students." (2004)

Khalsa states: "Putting students together according to their ability or disability (ability grouping) is not differentiated instruction. Homogenous grouping does not effectively offer the learning experiences necessary to promote the achievement of all students. Teacher-selected groupings can stigmatize students as "low" and "high" learners. If "tracking" students by ability were effective, we would still be advocating for its implementation. An important principle which guides differentiation is the flexible grouping of students. Students work individually, in small groups and in heterogeneous, whole class settings. Flexible grouping is based on a variety of factors, including readiness levels, interests, and behavioral needs." (2004)

Tomlinson (1995) states that there are many ways that the teacher can manage the classroom to create a "better fit for more learners, including those who are advanced. In general, "interest-based adjustments" allow students to have a voice in deciding whether they will apply key principles being studied to math-oriented, literature-based, hobby-related, science-oriented, or history-associated areas. For example, in studying the American Revolution, one student might opt to write a short story about the life of a teenager during the Revolutionary period. Another might elect to apply key ideas about the American Revolution to an investigation of heroes then and now. Yet another might prefer to study ways in which the revolution affected the development of science."

Tomlinson writes: "Adjustments based on learning profile encourage students to understand their own learning preferences. For example, some students need a longer period to reflect on ideas before beginning to apply them, while others prefer quick action. Some students need to talk with others as they learn, while others need a quiet work space. Some students learn best as they tell stories about ideas being explored, others as they create mind maps, and still others as they construct three-dimensional representations. Some students may learn best through a practical application of ideas, others through a more analytical approach." (1995) Additionally stated by Tomlinson is: "...Readiness-based adjustments can be created by teachers offering students a range of learning tasks developed along one or more of the following continua:

1) "Concrete to abstract." Learners advanced in a subject often benefit from tasks that involve more abstract materials, representations, ideas, or applications than less advanced peers;

2) "Simple to complex." Learners advanced in a subject often benefit from tasks that are more complex in resources, research, issues, problems, skills, or goals than less advanced peers;

3) "Basic to transformational." Learners advanced in a subject often benefit from tasks that require greater transformation or manipulation of information, ideas, materials, or applications than less advanced peers;

4) Fewer facets to multi-facets." Learners advanced in a subject often benefit from tasks that have more facets or parts of their directions, connections within or across subjects, or planning and execution than less advanced peers

5) Smaller leaps to greater leaps." Learners advanced in a subject often benefit from tasks that require greater mental leaps in insight, application, or transfers…[continue]

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