Last week I was on Twitter, and came across an article by Jim Delisle. I have read many articles, and few books by Jim. I have a lot of respect for him and his work. In this article I think there are some good points, and some points that I don’t necessarily agree with. (If you have any comment on this, I would love to hear from you in the comments sections below.)
Here are a few things I do agree with from Jim’s article:
- Differentiation is hard, and at times confusing
- Education bounces back and forth between paradigm shifts
- Many teachers are not differentiating
- Differentiation asks a lot of both teachers and students
- Classrooms should be homogenous. ( I know many of you will have issue with this.)
Here are a few things I don’t agree with from Jim’s article:
- Differentiation is a failure
- Differentiation is a form of lip service for those who want to teach students to their full potential
- Differentiation is only a theory where teachers talk about doing it but don’t
From personal experience there are many teachers who do not differentiate. They are unclear of what to do. They often thinkdo I need to differentiate the curriculum or the strategy? I know that it is easier to differentiate when the students are more on the same ability level. There is a big BUT! I honestly believe, that if a teacher sees that a child is struggling, either because the work is too hard or too easier they won’t step up and do something for that student or a group of students.
I know teachers have a lot of students in their classes, especially in the middle and high school, and there are demands of testing and teaching to those tests. I feel that teachers who have a handle on their curricula can make differentiation work if they really try. I am not saying that differentiation is easy or impossible, because ultimately the extra work goes on the teacher.
I am lucky. My classes are homogenous. I teach gifted children who for the most have the same I.Q. range and ability. My classes are also smaller than the normal teacher student load. I differentiate a lot. I differentiate not so much the curricula but the products my students create. I have some students who are good artists, and some who love to debate; I have some students who love to use technology, and some who are very shy and would rather not get out in front of a group of people they know and share what they are working on. I think if I had a class of 25 students with varying abilities I may have a different view of what differentiation might be. In essence, in every class you may be differentiating your material for just a handful of students.
I believe differentiation is a mindset. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work for the teacher, and I because of that it most often fails. I do agree with Jim that there are a lot of variables when trying to see if differentiation can or could work. I also believe that if a teacher doesn’t have this mindset they will be closed to the idea of implementing it in their classroom.
What do you think? Is differentiation a mindset….a failure….impossible task given to teachers from administrators…or just another shift of the educational pendulum?
As a side note: The Ohio Association for Gifted Children hosted a tweetchat on this topic. You can check out the transcript, and resources from that chat here.