In making decisions on how/when to differentiate instruction many factors play a role in the decisions I make. One of the key factor is assessments: formative, summative, interest based, exit tickets, observation, etc. I try to use multiple ways to assess my students to guide my instruction and to meet my students needs. Last year my 3rd grade team did “walk to math”, we used a variety of assessments to place the students. Every time the students were AIMSweb benchmarked we would again meet and decided if any students should move groups. We used assessment and observation to guide how we grouped the students to best meet their math needs. According to Moon (2005), “In a differentiated classroom, informed decision making involves a teacher focusing on what to teach, how best to teach it, and how to assess the students’ proficiency with what was taught, while giving attention to students’ varying readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles.”
Another factor is flexibility. As an educator I have to allow myself to be flexible if something isn’t working or the students aren’t mastering content or the dynamics of my student groups is negatively impacting student learning. I have to flex, shift, and change what I am doing or how I am doing things in the classroom. That flexibility is very important in my classroom.
Another huge factor in differentiated instruction is understanding the students and their academic needs. Building and fostering a working relationship with students so they understand that you are there to help them succeed academically. Assessment will help an educator understand students needs to a degree, however, really communicating with students, i.e. morning meeting, book talks, conferencing on work, really shows students that there is a reason for them to learn what is being taught in class and showing the students that you are invested in their learning. I found this diagram online from Tomlinson 1999.
Much of what I have been reading in my UAS course and what I already believe as an educator is related to this diagram. There is a relationship between teacher, students and subject matter. And all the parts are needed to help make learning successful. I have found in my 10 years of education if students feel their teacher actually cares about them and their learning, they will work harder and behave better in class.
Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2014, April 30). A teacher’s guide to differentiating instruction. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Teacher_s_Guide/
Moon, T. R. (2005). The role of assessment in differentiation. Theory into practice, 44(3), 226-233. Retrieved from https://courseweb.pitt.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/Pitt%20Online/Education/IL_2240/BERNSTEIN/Module%2010/Readings/IL_2240_M10_Read_Moon.pdf
Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). Differentiated instruction – relationships in education. Retrieved from http://www.richland.k12.wi.us/HS/GT/relationships%20in%20education.pdf
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms.