Sunday, July 3, 2011

Differentiated Learning

      At last.
     We all know the push in education is to "differentiate" teaching. That's a no brainer. With a classroom that includes gifted students, mainstream students, special education students (each with his/her own unique difficulties), hungry children, children who just recently arrived in the States, children coming from stressed homes, eager students, disinterested students -- how can the teacher NOT differentiate? But with one adult responsible for it all and 25 bodies out there, exactly how is this done?
     Lisa Nielson's article explains that it all can really work if we look at a different, yet connected, concept -- that of "differentiated learning."This flips the responsibility for learning the task onto the learner, where it already rests, anyway. How many of us adults become far more engaged in an activity when we added our our thoughts and direction into it? And how often do we passively go along when a task is handed to us and we are forced to take it in? (Think: inservice days.)
    Of course there are basics that any student needs to learn in a lesson. Where is the country? What are the multiples of 5? What sounds do /ch/ and /sh/ and /th/ make? But what if the students had input on how they wanted to learn the content? What if they then decide what else they wanted to learn on the topic? After all, the editors of a textbook decide that for the learner. What if they had a hand in the direction of their learning, too?
     John Dewey, an early pioneer educator whose work thrilled me when I first entered education classes, would be proud.
Note: A hearty thank you to