ABC OF INQUIRY – DIFFERENTIATION
ABC OF INQUIRY – DIFFERENTIATION “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”– E. E. Cummings
DIFFERENTIATION: To be yourself…
Differentiation is about valuing and working with the rich diversity of learners in our classrooms. Its all about valuing difference and not valorising one type of difference over anotherBy recognizing and supporting differentiated learning opportunities, teachers will be helping students to learn in ways that are useful and relevant to them which will mean that the construction of new ideas, attitudes, skills, knowledges or understandings will be more achievable for the students. Learning will no longer be about doing the rounds of learning centers where everyone repeats the same task as everyone else. Learning and the learning engagements different children engage with, will now be based on students’ prior knowledges and current needs. There might be 6 learning tasks in a learning centre but not all the children will do all six. The children will only do the tasks relevant to their needs as a learner. Some learners may do one task several times, some will do 2 or three tasks and them compare and synthesize the knowledge, skills, etc. from the various tasks. Some learners may even develop their own research task based on real life experiences or needs.
If you walked into a classroom where differentiation was valued and used to support all the learners’ constructing meaning in ways that make sense to them you might see:
- Students working in solo or quiet ways while others work in groups
- Students accessing and analyzing ideas using different materials, resources and strategies
- Students doing different tasks with varied foci, but linked to the same conceptual understandings
- Students being grouped in different ways according to different needs.
A teachers who has planned and worked with this group of learners would have spent time thinking about the WHO, WHAT, WHY of the tasks’ purposes and how they link to the learners’ prior knowledge and current needs.
The teacher might have asked
- What is the purpose of the task?
- What prior knowledge do different students bring to this task?
- What are the different needs students have that will influence how they engage with this task?
- How might the purpose of the task influence the grouping?
- How much voice, choice or agency do the students have in the grouping?
- What does the grouping make possible?
- What does the grouping limit?
- Who does the grouping best serve?
By doing this teachers show an awareness that students’ think, learn and ultimately construct ideas in a variety ways; that all students begin the construction of new ideas with different base knowledges and experiences to draw on. Understanding these particularities allows teachers to differentiate in a multitude of ways based on different elements of learning.
At the deepest level differentiation is about:
- Respecting and valuing difference and diversity
- Making learning relevant and engaging for each student
- Recognizing and respecting the independence and interdependence of all learners in their learning community.
BCW will now use ‘They — themself’ as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun in all subsequent material generated on our website.
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