What Differentiation Isn’t

Today, some of the most important skills to be accumulated and honed for a teacher. It is all learnable, but sadly at times, too many have tried to oversimplify it or turn it in to something it was never meant to be.

For example, when based in the UAE I was shocked and saddened by the number of teachers who had been trained to believe that differentiation consisted of categorising all the children in a class in to one of – high, middle and low – and then giving each group a different worksheet! Worst of all, if there was any differentiation in this practice – it was differentiation of end outcomes. In other words, by labeling the children at the start, by varying the work they were given, we were setting them up for different end goals from their learning. The children placed in the lowest category had the lowest expectations of what they could eventually achieve. They were being set up to under-achieve.

An enormous travesty and a distortion of everything that was ever intended in differentiation.

Here’s a very useful recent article from ASCD that spells out in simple terms what differentiation isn’t. This is a useful starting point for all educators to then determine what it is:

In Service – ASCD – 5 fallacies That Are Not Differentiated Instruction


Differentiated Instruction

For a lot of teachers there’s something quite daunting about discussing differentiated instruction. People are hesitant to admit to each other the extent to which they really understand the concept or what it requires of them.

Some also struggle to get their heads around what it would really look like in class, what would be happening different. There are also issues at times about acknowledging the fears about the amount of extra work it entails for the teacher.

So, I was particularly pleased to come across this article written by a practicing teacher that deals with these issues openly and honestly. By giving a real life classroom example the piece gives a good feel, especially for trainee teachers, of how differentiated instruction actually looks in a classroom.

Edutopia blog on differentiated instruction

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