Friday, January 21, 2005

The Differentiated Classroom

Learning about this was one of my favorite part of my teacher prep. course. I LOVE the idea of allowing students a margin of freedom in how they carry out their learning. For example, some students learn by writing out essays and other students may learn by making flow charts for the information. I definitely plan on incoportating this into my own teaching.

Something I am not as comfortable with is differentiation for ability. I have a hard time figuring out how this benefits the whole class - from the smarties to the students who might need more help. While allowing them some choice in how they are assessed I don't see how it is possible to have everyone benefit. It really sounds like we are heading back to the days of the one room school houses and I'm not sure that is a good thing. First of all, as a "smart kid" I know that if my teacher had some students learning something easier got the same grades that I was getting for learning something more difficult I would be angry. Furthermore, isn't this damaging to the self-esteem of the not-so-smart kids? I would feel pretty bad about myself if I wasn't even allowed to try the more difficult material. Lastly, if I scaled every lesson back so that ever student could understand the material I feel like I would be short changing the whole class for a few students. I really want to have ALL of my students learn something, but I just don't think that the way to do that is to have so many different levels in the same classroom.

Does anyone else feel like this? Can anyone share experiences about this working or not working? I'm just very, very curious, especially since I still have a little while before I become a full time teacher. Thanks!


At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ask all my students to learn the same amount of material, but I encourage them to use different ways of learning it. I keep notes on all my students to see how they learn best (e.g. John like drawing, Sally likes verbal exercises), then I tailor their lessons to that.

I never let my students believe they are not as smart as others (because I don't believe it myself). I find that everyone is smart in different ways (EQ stuff, art, etc.) so I find ways to use those abilities in learning.

For assessment, however, I use the same tests for everyone. I tell my students what will be on the tests (not explicitly, but enough so they're not shocked at what's being asked of them), and they get to decide what ways they want to learn for it. For those who can't write as well as should be expected, I give them extra writing help. I also teach test-taking strategies to everyone. The rest pretty much falls into place.


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