Differentiation enables teachers to go beyond the question, How can I make sure a student masters a body of information? asking instead, How can I help create a real learner?
There are four elements of DI: trust; fit;voice; and awareness. Here’s a description of developing awareness:
“Monica Harrold, a 1st grade teacher frequently led her students to analyze a piece of work they were about to begin with a partner or small group. After she described the task, she’d say, “Now tell me what skills are necessary to do this work really well.” Gradually , her young students became proficient at naming the skills the assignment called for. Next, she’d ask them to think about which of the necessary skills they had and which ones they’d need to be sure someone else in the group had. In my observations of Monica’s classroom, it was common to hear a student say, “I can draw and I can write, but I’m not very good at finding information so I’ll need to work with someone else who can do that.” At age 6, these students were already becoming metacognitively aware. They were learning to position themselves as successful learners by controlling their working conditions.
In order to empower our students, we must engage them in these metacognitive tasks early and frequently. As I start to collect the tools of the school of the future, DI is a critical part of that toolbox.
Image from Wes Fryer