Differentiating instruction is one of the most necessary components of modern day learning because it is necessary for success with standards for a broad range of learners.
Teachers often practice differentiation in the classroom by designing lessons based on students’ learning styles and or group students based on their shared interest, topic, or ability for assignments.
This form of instruction is proactive, is more qualitative than quantitative, and takes up multiple approaches to content, process and product. It is considered beneficial because it is extremely student centric and is more of an organic plus dynamic form of instruction. But, it is important to understand that, this form of instruction is ‘NOT’ an individualized instruction or not just another way that offers homogeneous grouping. Rather, through differentiated instruction, students can be grouped as per their skills, interest and readiness or by choice. It is a “purposeful use of flexible grouping”, giving due importance to lesson goals. It is a form of instruction which teaches and holds students to high standards.
Having said it all, do you think it is an easy job for the teachers to differentiate instructions? Remember, teachers are faced with increasingly diverse students in the classroom and this add up all the pressure. Say in a classroom, some students come to the class with more knowledge and experience than the rest of the students. And needless to say, we all know that all students have their own ways and pace to learn. So, now evaluate it for yourself, isn’t it a taxing situation and never-ending task for a teacher to come up with a successful plan for differentiating instructions for these varied type of learners?
Well, here the immense growth of edtech sector and the coming up of widening of product landscape in edtech can be a huge blessing! By using technology to differentiate instruction, it can help teachers save time while better meeting all the needs of the students. As far as, using technology is concerned, slowly both educators and innovators across the world are beginning to realize its real potential in making learning process more charged up, effective and worthwhile not just in classroom environment but beyond it as well.
Ways to Successfully Differentiate Instruction
1. Grouping & Selecting Leaders
One of the most successful ways to differentiate instruction is by grouping students into small groups. Most often, teachers group up students by clustering students into two groups. Say, in the group one, they include students that are active and get any content easily right at first time and those that are waiting for reviews on their work. And the other group, includes students who have already had an introduction to or an established understanding of the content.
Selecting leaders for these small groups is considered beneficial as students who are selected as leaders are generally those who have mastered the content. So the peer student leaders help the others in the group to master the materials easily.
2. Student Pairing
Pairing students by ability can be a good idea but it can be tricky at times because in the case of digital curriculum, digital lessons progress at the rate of the learner and this implies that students need to be paired with someone who has the same content proficiency as them. So, such has to be kept in mind while pairing students for any project based learning environment or for regular learning.
But please note, if students are paired for long, they share the grades and this may give false reading about each individual student’s understanding. Therefore, it is wiser to pair them for a shorter duration, may be till they have gained enough confidence on learning something new but not after they have gathered enough knowledge.
3. Shuffle Partners in Groups
Sometimes partnering for longer periods of time can be tricky, so it’s important to develop small groups where pairs get interchanged. It is an innovative way to make students feel comfortable in using their digital curriculum system. And with a watchful eye, teachers can get a better feeling for each individual student’s understanding as well.
4. Involve in Hands-On Activities
Students at different occasion has managed to thrive when they are given an opportunity to create something on their own. Research too shows that the more active the brain of students is in different areas, the better are the chances for retention. This can be used in STEM activities and even in humanities studies too. It will keep the students more engaged in their projects/ activities and encourage collaborative and creative thinking.
5. Prepare List to Keep Students on Track
For a teacher, it may not be always possible to allow students to roam around the classroom helping their classmates for various reasons. Hence, what can work as an alternative and a feasible option is to consider developing a short list of commonly encountered problems of students. Then take out a print out of that list and attach them to the students’ wall. These problems can then be addressed one by one to resolve all the issues. In many occasions, the teacher will find, students voluntarily taking up steps to encounter their own issue if they see them on the wall.
6. Finally Selecting the Right Content
When thinking of differentiating instruction, the first thing that should be considered is- the learning objective that the teacher wants his/her students’ to master. It is essential because, this gives up a better idea of whether every student need to start from the beginning and progress till the end? Or, is there a way out by which it can be tested to check out if students are eligible to quickly move onto some challenging materials?
Such evaluations can only be done by carefully choosing lessons and activities for each student to complete and fulfill their learning objectives by allowing students to work at their own pace and as per their levels of ability.
To sum up, with the use of differentiated instructional methods, it allows the teacher to meet the needs of all the learners while they are maintaining high standards within groups or individuals. So as teachers match up a variety of exciting activities to a students’ learning preference and varying style, the much needed effective learning occurs like magic takes place.
How do you differentiate instruction in your classroom? Please share with us your experience of using this technique in the classroom so that it helps other teachers as well to use your experience in pedagogy and make learning more charged up.