Describe a differentiated classroom...

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by GTB4GT, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    especially in a HS math classroom.

    I have heard/read about the term "differentiated instruction". (Note: I did not go to college for education so I may not have the educational training & background that some or most of you do).

    Am I to understand that the kids in the same classroom are working on different learning objectives or lessons? If so, how do you as a teacher manage that? Are the students themselves ok with that? Or do you hear "why do i have to do the hard problems when Sally doesn't?"from them and/or their parents.
    Or is it (DI) simply spending more time with the kids who are a little behind while the more proficient students work ahead at their own pace while all are working on the same learning objective?

    A case study: in a recent lesson on special right triangles I put in some review problems on simplifying radicals because I knew the weaker students would require it. Even though we have seen them (radicals) throughout the year. That was not really the learning objective for the day. In a true DI classroom, would the weaker students be doing that (simplifying radicals) as an objective while the better students had solving right triangles as their lesson objective? If that is the case, do you as a teacher have two or more preps for the same class? And how do you manage that?

    Thanks for any insight. I am obviously a bit uncertain as to what it (DI) actually looks like for both student and teacher.
     
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  3. MsAbeja

    MsAbeja Companion

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    Is simplifying radicals something that students need as key background info in order to successfully master the larger objective on right triangles? If so, then that is differentiated instruction.

    I'm not a math teacher, so I can't say for sure, but the above bolded sections are what I consider to be differentiated instruction. All students are working on the same objective, but weaker students receive more scaffolding in order to master the objective, and stronger students are given "fast finisher" work that deepens their understanding of the concept.

    For example, I teach a Literacy Support class and we're working on writing justification essays. So my weaker students might get a few sentence starters or a frame to help them state their claim and back it up with reasons and evidence. I might give them graphic organizers that help them break down each section, and maybe a list of citation verbs (the author stated/ expressed/ examined/ declared/ maintained/ etc.) whereas the stronger writers might not need so much support. And for the really strong writers (who probably wouldn't be in my Lit Support class) I would have a secondary article covering the same topic (some of our topics include junk food in schools: ban or allow? Video games: helpful or harmful? and Graffiti: vandalism or street art?) They would be encouraged to reference the second source in their justification essay.
     
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  4. sportsguy

    sportsguy Rookie

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    It's a buzzword for throwing the lowest achieving students and biggest behavior problems in one room.
     
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  5. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    OP--to me, what you have described, providing extra support to those students who need it and scaffolding skills, is good teaching practice. It is, in a sense, providing differentiation for some of your struggling students by giving them something the others aren't getting. Differentiation isn't, however, only for students who are struggling in some way.

    The are some excellent resources about DI on the web; I'd suggest spending a bit of time browsing. I'm a grade 7 teacher and teach all subjects to my class (except French, Music and Phys Ed). Some days I'm better at differentiating than others. I do try, over the course of a unit, to vary my method of instruction and usually give students some choice in how they will demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.
     
  6. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    thanks for this reply.Yes, the kids need to be proficient with radicals to deal with the special right triangles. The one thought I keep having about these students is that they are dealing with "double the workload" of the other students given the exact same lesson objective. They are mastering (or attempting to master) two (and sometimes more) math skills at the same time.It IS very challenging for them. It just feels like some of these kids are trying to catch up and squeeze 2-3 years of math into one year. It is a daunting task.That is why I asked about having the same or different objectives for the DI lesson.

    Of course, some of you may ask why they are even in my classroom if they are not at grade level skill wise? I would simply have to say that this is common practice at my school to pass kids along regardless of proficiency and leave it at that. That is a whole different can of worms.
     
  7. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Here's a simplified answer, but maybe it will be some help.

    Let's say I was teaching two digit multiplication (I teach elementary).

    I would put problems up on the board, such as:

    Must do:
    23 62 43
    x12 x7 x17

    Challenge problems:
    495 102
    x45 x785


    Everyone must do the "must do" problems, but the kids who finish early can do the challenge problems. Usually, at least at an elementary level, those early finishers appreciate the extra challenge, so there is no "how come I have to" issue. I did the same thing with a grammar lesson yesterday and my high students did not complain at all when I gave them more challenging questions after finishing early.

    (edit: I had these problems so nicely spaced out but it deletes my spaces when I submit :( )
     
  8. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I would not really consider the challenge problems as challenge problems. Adding digits doesn't really make the thinking more challenging, imo.
    I would "challenge" the "higher" students to look at different ways to manipulate the problems. For example 23 x 12 as (10 x 23) + 2 x 23, most if not all can be done mentally. Maybe 23 x 12 as 46 x 6 making it an a single digit. I would choose numbers that will make the students think relationally...etc.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017
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  9. 4SquareRubric

    4SquareRubric Rookie

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    Agreed here that differentiation is interchangeable with scaffolds. When differentiation became a "big" thing it was floated as an idea that students are working on different versions of the task, but overtime educators have realized that is rarely the best strategy.

    Differentiation has kind of been replaced by Universal Design in which you provide the supports and scaffolds for all students to access the same material. An example of this is giving a list of vocabulary terms to ESL students when reading a difficult text or including picture cues alongside the text. It should allow students to engage in the same text, but with supports. Another example, might be giving students calculators during certain math problems where the objective is not on operations.

    Generally the idea is to ensure that students of varying proficiencies are not hindered by skill deficiencies that are not relevant to the skill or content being covered. Provide all students access.
     
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  10. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    The only times I have really had it work is in ESLclasses where students are at different levels. Sometimes I have divided the class into different groups with a completely different curriculum. That worked fine as long as the students were pretty motivated and well-behaved, because they had to be able to do independent work while I was working with the other group.

    But it did create two preps for me and it was an ESL class, so the standards allowed for this, and there was not a content-based state test on a specific set of objectives.

    In an ELA class, I have never had it really work. The most I can do is provide different leveled texts and expect different quality of writing. I used to give more choices of assignments or projects, and should probably do more.

    I do a ton of scaffolding in different ways for different kids, but I don't really think of that as DI. It is just teaching, you know? If a kid needs a certain explanation to understand the question, IMO that is teaching, not DI.

    The problem, as you know, is that in core classes there are standards and state tests. How do I "meet a student where he is" if that means he reads on a 4th grade level and it is a 10th grade ELA class? If I teach him where he is at, he will never be taught the grade-level standards, and that is what I am supposed to teach him. IMO, DI is a way to pretend that we are giving students what they need and hide the impossibility of it.
     
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  11. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    This is a very insightful post. Perhaps the following question is a bit naive but I have been lead to believe that if you have a 4th grade level student in your class and you move him to the 6th grade level (even though he/she is a sophomore) that the test scores (for both teacher and student) will be positive because they will show significant growth even though the student is still well below grade level. Have I misunderstood things?
     
  12. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Yes, you are correct. However, the test is at 10th grade level, multiple choice. The passages are so far above his level that he will end up guessing or will have such a weak understanding of the text that he may as well have guessed. So his score may not show any growth from last year because it is based on guessing. If the test were actually at his level or were adaptive, then it would be able to measure the growth he has actually made.
     
  13. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    wow. In this case is a teacher better served (by this I mean JUST from the perspective oft test scores as a basis of "judgement" of a teacher's effectiveness) by focusing then ONLY on those who have a chance of doing well on the test. Is this then counter intuitive or perhaps better stated as counter productive to differentiating instruction in a classroom with a wide variance in abilities? I ask this because I have never taught tested subject areas and I wonder how/if I would alter my teaching strategies if I were to ever do so.
     
  14. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I agree, and like I said, it was a simplification. Mostly, it's good to offer some kind of extra bonus challenge (phrase it that way, too) for those who need a push.
     
  15. Jerry Dill

    Jerry Dill Companion

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    Students have different learning styles that have been talked about by Howard Gardner and others, i.e. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/learning-styles-preferences/, as well as many others. There are students who learn best by listening to sounds, to seeing visuals, to using their bodies and actions, by working in groups, by working alone, etc. When I differentiate I get to know the individual learning style of a student, and I work individually with that student to help her or him progress in their abilities in my classes.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    In fact, the Vanderbilt link actively contradicts the claim that tailoring instruction to a student's preferred learning style - visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing, tactile - is effective, and makes a point I've been preaching for a couple of decades: that what drives a visual vs. auditory vs. tactile approach in instruction should be the nature of the content being imparted. (Obvious example: when I want people to distinguish between hopping and leaping, I have them hop and leap. That's kinesthetic, and it gets the point across in a way that neither lecture (auditory) nor outline (reading/writing) nor even diagram (visual) ever will.)

    Pro tip: In discussing learning styles with teachers, don't mention Howard Gardner except perhaps as counterevidence. While the learning style claim assumes that each learner has exactly one preferred learning style, Gardner explicitly refers to multiple intelligences that a learner can draw on as appropriate, and furthermore posits that they're fluid - can be improved - rather than fixed.
     
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  17. Jerry Dill

    Jerry Dill Companion

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    I do not think the learning style claim assumes that each individual student has just one preferred learning style. When I have read and heard about learning styles, the assumption is usually that a student has a mix of learning styles. Some students prefer learning alone and others like to learn in groups, but they can still learn to some extent using the alternative approach. And learning alone or intersubjectively can happen with auditory, visual or kinesthetic forms of learning, so those types of learning can be mixed together. There are other types of learning styles than the ones I mentioned: spatial, linguistic, numeric, etc. Many ideas can be taught in many different ways and there is not an intuitively correct way of teaching that idea, so that is another reason why it is important to know the learning styles of one's students.
     
  18. christie

    christie Rookie

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    Oy. Learning styles have largely been debunked. Offering students opportunities to show what they've learned in different ways is one thing. Tailoring instruction based on outdated (or never proven) ideas is another thing entirely.

    When thinking about differentiation best practice is to plan for what you think the advanced students can do and scaffold from there. Ideally everyone is working on the same target, but will get there in a variety of ways. They may also show what they know in different ways.

    Before you can differentiate instruction, you have to know where students are in relation to the topic being taught. You'll need some type of assessment - it can be a simple entrance ticket, yesterday's exit ticket or even a student self-assessment of what they know about a topic. I teach elementary students (and previously taught middle school) and most students have a pretty good gauge on what they know and what they don't know. In the right environment - one that feels safe - students are willing to go out on a limb and say they need more help than others might. If you haven't heard of My Favorite No, take a look. It's a great way to catch mistakes quickly in a math classroom.

    Based on the assessment, you offer different activities - or different levels of support in completing similar activities. Students who understand the concept can be given work that requires them to apply the concept. Students who need a minimal amount of help might get a small group lesson, some guided practice, independent practice and then application. Students who need a lot of support or who are missing some underlying conceptual pieces need small group group instruction, focused on guided support and the ability to fill in holes in real-time. While you are working with the middle group, they might be working on Khan Academy - watching a video that will give them procedural steps, and something to look back on as they try the guided practice. Once you're done with the first small group, this second small group should get the bulk of your attention.

    A whole-class debrief is a great way of bringing them back together. Done well, all students will have learned something and moved from where they were to a new place along the learning continuum. A well-designed, but quick exit ticket allows you to adjust groups and instruction for the next day.
     
  19. Jerry Dill

    Jerry Dill Companion

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    I still see many teachers thinking about differences in learning styles. Here is a researcher who defends learning styles theory against "debunking" of the theory. Downes calls the debunker an instructivist and says they base their theories on the content not on the learner. There were other researchers who similarly disagreed with such debunking, but to save time and space, I am not quoting them.

    Stephen Downes
    Stephen Downes leads the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council in Canada, and is one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). He has published 135 articles, books, magazines, and academic journals, and has presented more than 250 times.

    Cathy Moore writes, "Learning styles have been popularized by well-intentioned people, including possibly your professor of instructional design. However, the claim that we have to adapt our design to accommodate different learning styles has been repeatedly debunked by research."The research, however, is very narrow and based on a narrow "instructivist" definition of teaching as a form of instruction to produce content recall. From my perspective, however, one of the problems of instructivist approaches is that they are completely indifferent to -- and unimpacted by -- individual learner differences. The instructivists (people like Willingham spring to mind here) say instructional method is defined by the content, not the learner. So they begin by denying what to me is the most obvious and intuitive fact about learning and education -- that everyone is different. It seems clear to me that we would teach the blind person differently from the deaf, or the expert learner differently from the novice. And if content-focused approaches don't reflect the difference, so much the worse for them.My take is that many people who talk about learning styles are not instructionists and are working toward more than simple recall -- they are, for example, constructivists seeking to foster understanding, creativity, and value assessment. It's true, as Moore says, that "the best way to honor people's individuality isn't to shove them into simplistic categories." But it isn't to treat them as identical robots either, and this requires beginning with the person, and not with the content.
     
  20. christie

    christie Rookie

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    So according to this author, if you don't believe in learning styles, you don't care about your students? The idea often bandied about in educational circles is that students have a learning style - that is they learn better one way than another. Research has shown that simply isn't the case.

    Psychological Science
    Psychology Today
    Daniel Willingham

    There are plenty of ways to differentiate that are tailored to individual students that have nothing to do with learning styles: taking into account readiness, background knowledge, how students show their understanding, even what parts of a topic a student researches. Differentiation requires a deep understanding of your students on many levels. There is a huge difference between putting kids into simplistic categories and treating them as robots.
     
  21. Jerry Dill

    Jerry Dill Companion

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    There are still many professors and teachers who support and successfully use a learning styles approach. Here is a critical response to the study by Pashler et al. cited in the Psychological Science link listed above:


    But not everyone is impressed by the new paper. Mr. Sternberg of Tufts (and a former longtime professor of psychology at Yale University), says in his e-mail message that while he holds Mr. Pashler and his colleagues in high esteem, he believes they did a poor job here.

    Several of the most-cited researchers on learning styles, Mr. Sternberg points out, do not appear in the paper's bibliography. "The authors draw negative conclusions about a field they fail adequately to review," Mr. Sternberg says.

    Mr. Sternberg and several colleagues have worked intensively on models of learning stylesfor more than a decade. In 1999, he and three co-authors published a paper in the European Journal of Psychological Assessment that found that students who were strongly oriented toward "analytical," "creative," or "practical" intelligence did better if they were taught by instructors who matched their strength. (In their paper, Mr. Pashler and his colleagues cite Mr. Sternberg's 1999 study as the only well-designed experiment to have found such a pattern—though they add that the study "has peculiar features that make us view it as providing only tenuous evidence.")

    Susan M. Rundle, a learning-styles consultant who is working with instructors at Alabama A&M University, also says that the research base is much stronger than Mr. Pashler and his colleagues believe. And she adds that the paper's focus on the "matching hypothesis" is somewhat beside the point.

    "In my work in higher education, I've found that it's difficult to get professors to match their instruction to their students," says Ms. Rundle, who is president of Performance Concepts International, which promotes a learning-styles model developed by Kenneth J. Dunn, a professor of education at City University of New York's Queens College, and the late Rita Dunn, who taught for many years at St. John's University, in Queens.

    "What we do try to get professors to do," Ms. Rundle says, "and where we've been successful, is to become aware of their own learning style and how that affects the way they teach. What are some things that they can do in the classroom other than just lecturing?"
     
  22. Jerry Dill

    Jerry Dill Companion

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    In an article published 2 years ago in 2015, the author found that the learning styles approach is still referred to in many publications in ERIC. This is what the author found:

    The overwhelming majority (89%) of recent research papers, listed in the ERIC and PubMed research databases, implicitly or directly endorse the use of Learning Styles in Higher Education. These papers are dominated by the VAK and Kolb Learning Styles inventories.
     
  23. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    Just an aside but I find this often when reading research in the field and/or reading threads in which research is cited. By this, I am referring to conflicting data and conclusions. To further confound the issue, I do not know which researchers are credible or not. Thus, the time spent sifting through the various and conflicting reports is too precious and (in my opinion only) is better invested in lesson plans and other tasks and requirements of the job.
    The other thing I encounter is when the research is in conflict with my actual hands on experience. For example, class room size is one in which my experience does not correlate very well with conclusions reached by the academicians.
     
  24. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    There are many names to call the differentiation we do on a daily basis. I use QR codes to help students who need more help, be it a picture hint, a direct hint, a video etc., so that all students can complete a task but with the help they require to help them complete the task. I've found it efficient to differentiate in this manner because every student is different and requires a different type of differentiation. Call it whatever you like, differentiation is necessary, but it also takes up an incredible amount of work and time.
     
  25. MrTempest

    MrTempest Companion

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    This is what kills me about current trends in education, that is everyone is so quick to jump on current bandwagons and revamp everything. The thing about research on effective classrooms is that it will always be qualitative and unique to the parameters of the situations being focused on. Teachers should be educated on best practices to build up their tool boxes and know how what tools to use at the right time for their unique classes.
    For instance, here is a recent article essentially trashing the notion of teaching to varied learning styles.
    https://www.theguardian.com/educati...ning-styles-scientists-neuroscience-education
     
  26. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Presenting material in a multitude of ways benefits virtually every child in the class. DI is, in many cases, exactly that, varied ways of teaching the same lesson. In this case, it doesn't matter if you believe in learning styles or not - you are providing many different ways for varied students to learn and build on former knowledge. FWIW, I learn best listening to a lecture live, in the classroom, with questions, answers, and discussions as they unfold, but it doesn't mean I can't learn by reading, constructing or hand's on, using diagrams, working with a group, creating presentations, and the list goes on. IMHO, most students will tell you they are a visual learner, thinking that all they have to do is watch video without reading, etc. The most important aspect of learning is to be engaged and questioning, allowing each learner to navigate the lesson in a way that is meaningful.
     
  27. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Today's math lesson was a perfect example of DI--some intentional, some "on the fly". We are working on volume and surface area and some are really struggling with SA--particularly with visualizing the faces of the prisms. We looked at a variety of strategies that students use to help them, and I shared those that I use. Bottom line, we talked about the fact that there is more than one way to go about coming up with a solution and that the students should use what words best for them.
     

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