Differentiated instruction

Science Scope Cover Feb 2010Consider the facility that students have with electronic communications and games. They somehow had to “learn” how to use these tools and figure out the rules and strategies of the games. But I heard some teachers talking about how “students do not want to learn.” The evidence the teachers had for their statement was their observation that “Students don’t do their assignments.”
But I wonder what the connection is between a student’s desire to learn and the tasks we require of them. How do we choose or design learning activities that will build on students’ prior knowledge, experiences, skills, and strengths while meeting their needs? Do we as teachers ever provide students with any choices or input into what they are learning and how they learn?
Although teachers may provide a variety of activities, several articles in this issue show a structured and systematic design can lead to increased student engagement and learning. Unit Pages: Differentiation for Students describes how students can be scaffolded into taking more responsibility for their learning. Differentiation Through Choice has examples of a strategy called a “think-tac-toe” which provides students with several alternatives to demonstrate their learning. (I’ve also seen this strategy described as a “choice board.”) Check out the websites of Carol Tomlinson  for more on differentiation and Kathie Nunley for more on layered curriculum.

Other articles in this issue describe how to support middle-schoolers as they use inquiry and literacy processes: Getting Students to be Successful, Independent Investigators and Science & Literacy: Tools for Life. Other articles look at the use of commercial video games, visual formative assessments, webquests, photographic scavenger hunts, and how to restructure group  discussions more equitably.
The February 2010 issue of Educational Leadership from ASCD also has several articles related to differentiation. Most require a subscription, but there are two that are available to all: What Research Says About Differentiated Learning and From Apathy to Mastery
And don’t forget that with SciLinks you can find a variety of resources to tap into student interests and skill levels.

This entry was posted in SciLinks and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Differentiated instruction

  1. MaryB says:

    ASCD has additional articles on this topic in the latest SmartBrief.

  2. Both the “what and how” of differentiated instruction instruction are crucial to successful implementation of DI in the classroom; however, the “how” must be teacher-directed and make pedagogical sense. Check out Differentiated Instruction-the What and How
    to read this important dialogue between DI authors Mark Pennington and Rick Wormeli.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *