Differentiating teaching methods is not necessarily grouping students into classes based on their abilities, nor is it allowing students to choose their own reading books.
Teachers are responsible for an almost incomprehensible array of factors; defining learning objectives, assessing the learner’s needs, constructing lesson plans, providing an environment that facilitates learning, implementing assessment, using time efficiently, engaging difficult students, serving as a counsellor, and their day doesn’t end at 3pm.
Once students leave for the day, teachers finally have the opportunity to focus on paperwork, marking and reports.
Differentiated learning is more time-consuming than lecture style tuition, which is why it’s often last on the to do list of today’s time poor teachers.
There are, however, many advantages to differentiated learning and different students require varied teaching methods to reach their true potential. When planned correctly, they can make work easier for the teacher and deliver better outcomes for the students.
Here are seven differentiation methods you can trial in your classroom:
- Learning stations – Divide sections of your classroom through which groups of students can rotate. Each station should feature a unique form of content – watching video, creating art, reading, completing puzzles, etc
- Get to know your students – Asking them about their learning preferences can help you adapt your teaching methods to the class’s needs. Consider asking them about their favourite types of lessons and white type of exercises help them remember key lessons
- Assign open-ended projects – Provide students with a list of projects to find one that lets them demonstrate their knowledge in a method that suits them. Make sure you include a clear rubric for each type of projects to establish expectations
- Allow them to propose their own projects – Encourage students to pitch their own ideas for a project, including how it will meet academic standards. Work with the student to refine their ideas until it’s suitable
- Create learning playlists – Create a list of learning tasks and allow students to move through them at their own pace and in the order they prefer. This enables them to spend more time on the items they find complex and move on more quickly from those they complete easily
- Flexible environment – Allow students to have input on where they are positioned in the classroom- sitting at a desk, on a stool, on the floor, standing, etc
- Group students heterogeneously – Allowing students of mixed levels to work together encourages higher level students to tutor their peers. This should be balanced with grouping students homogeneously to prevent the more capable students feeling frustrated and limited
While many generations have received teaching in traditional formats, modern educators recognise that one size does not fit all when it regards education and forcing students into boxes not only fails to meet their needs but is potentially harmful to their success.
The Implementing Differentiation in Teaching & Learning conference, running in Melbourne from 25 – 26 March, will bring together representatives from Independent, Catholic and Public schools to begin an interactive discussion on how schools can tackle some of the biggest challenges to differentiated teaching.
It will also provide an opportunity to collaborate and strategise to better assess and group students on the basis of individual capabilities, develop a whole-of-school approach to differentiation, and implement differentiation in everyday teaching to achieve improved learning outcomes for students across Australia.