Differentiation in the Classroom.
What is Differentiation?
So what does differentiation in the classroom look like?
Differentiating in the High School Classroom
While there are many differences within our classroom, differentiation works in 3 main areas:
- Readiness to Learn
- Learning Needs
Basically, to provide a differentiated curriculum you need to look at whether your students are ready to learn, and if they’re not how can you get them to be. What learning needs do they have. How you can accommodate these in your teaching and learning? Finally, what are their areas of interest, and how can you incorporate these into your teaching and learning to engage and motivate your students? Using some of the following methods of differentiation in the classroom will help you cater to the varied learning needs in your class.
This is one of the core methods of differentiation. It involves setting a task that the majority of your students will be able to complete with a level of independence and then changing this task to meet the needs of those that require extension or support.
Collaborative learning is huge at the moment. It has well-documented benefits and is an essential skill that employers are looking for when hiring graduates. In a classroom, having mixed ability groups working on a task means that lower ability students are being supported by their peers, and those high achievers develop skills in organising and developing their leadership skills. Grouping also allows roles to be allocated within the team which cater to each member’s skill set and learning needs.
It is important to remember that the children we are working with have grown up not knowing life without technology. Some students need identified devices or tools to access learning. An example of utilising technology is having the student download the English text onto their device and read it using a modified version. Or it could be used just to enlarge the text, highlight words etc. There are some great online programs and downloadable apps that can be used across all KLAs, for all ages and for all skill levels.
Differentiated Dialogue & Support:
Differentiation by dialogue is the most regularly used type of differentiation in the classroom. The emphasis in this method is on the role of the teacher. They become a facilitator in problem-solving by identifying which students need detailed explanations in simple language and which students can engage in dialogue at a more sophisticated level. The teacher may also employ targeted questioning to produce a range of responses and to challenge the more able students. Verbal support and encouragement also play a crucial part in this technique. This is also a form of Formative Assessment, as it allows the teacher to change the lesson as they go to meet the needs of the students – does a section need to be revisited to ensure students have fully grasped the concept? Skip the next section as it’s irrelevant at this stage of their learning.
Differentiation by outcome is where all students undertake the same task but a variety of results are expected and acceptable. Some teachers have reservations about the risk that the less able students will fall below an acceptable level of understanding. However, this can be mitigated somewhat by establishing a clear set of success criteria. Simply by using “I Can” statements allows students to identify what it is they have learnt. Teachers can then identify what has been missed or needs revision. It also offers one clear advantage – no prior grouping is necessary.
Rather than relying just on a post-topic assessment, the differentiated classroom assesses students on an on-going basis. This ensures that the teaching, and indeed the other methods of differentiation, can be continuously adjusted according to the learners’ needs. Teachers also need to provide opportunities for students to be assessed in ways that engage their interest areas. I often use the ‘menu’ assessment style. This method asks students to complete the same task but has them doing it in a way that suits their learning style.