Differentiated Instruction

In Educational Leadership this month, Carol Ann Tomlinson writes about  Differentiated Instruction as a way of giving students ownership of learning. She states:

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

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One thought on “Differentiated Instruction

  1. Teaching students at an early age to define their strengths and weaknesses is a good way to help their metacognitive thinking skills. This will help them think abstractly and on a higher level. Also, pairing a student that is having trouble writing with a student that is advanced in writing is a good way for the students to interact and teach each other on a level that they can understand. I think that having students work in groups gives them courage and inspiration that they may not get from working alone.

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