Differentiation. I’ve only recently began to recognise how misconstrued my understanding of differentiation was in my first few years of teaching.
I guess my original understanding was that it meant providing different work for students based on their needs and abilities. At times, as a result I would find myself planning lessons in such a way that I’d essentially be teaching multiple lessons in the same lesson in order to cater for the ‘All, Most, Some’ learning objectives my first school required. No wonder I found it such hard work. Then when I started teaching mixed ability groups, it got even worse but I got really good at differentiation by task. However that’s not how differentiation works I’ve come to realise. There’s far more to it than that.
In my formative years of teaching, I went by the rule ‘differentiation by outcome is not acceptable’, I can’t remember if it was my first school that had this rule or whether I’d learnt it on my PGCE course. Either way, actually it is okay, especially now that in Geography and History at GCSE all students undertake the same questions, there is no differentiation between those doing higher tier and foundation. They all do the same, yet their outcomes will be different!!!! It’s now all about scaffolding students to achieve.
But differentiation goes beyond that.
When I was training to teacher I learnt that differentiation was ‘the process by which differences between learners are accommodated so that all students in a group have the best possible chance of learning’ as described by the Training and Development Agency for Schools and that differentiation could be by task, support and outcome.
differentiation by task involved setting different tasks for students of different abilities
differentiation by support meant giving more help to certain students
differentiation by outcome meant setting everyone the same task and allowing student response at different levels
But I’ve learnt that differentiation is far more than this, it’s a teacher’s response to learner’s needs and therefore can be planned or unplanned, long term or short term, explicit or subtle.
It is impossible to differentiate for every student and every need all of the time but being able to adapt and respond in the moment is just as important as planning support in advance.
In fact you may differentiate in any number of ways
– Task – Instruction – Resources – Process – Outcome – Seating plan – Groups – Feedback – Subject Content – Questioning – Assessment – Dialogue – Environment – Rules and Routines – Interests – Approaches to learning – Pastoral Support
As I put together resources for a CPD session this week, it go me thinking. – Is it possible to evidence all of this? – Should we be asked to provide evidence of differentiation in books? – How is differentiation observed and recognised in lesson observations? – Is differentiation often to focused on being able to see it through different tasks/support materials?
In particular I started thinking about the fact that if all students sit the same exam at GCSE the key focus should be on scaffolding to succeed rather than capping students with different tasks that suit their ‘ability’.
If I’m honest I would say my differentiation technique now which has been developed over the last 5 years is to teach to the top and differentiate down through scaffolding to support all students to achieve the highest possible grade/level/mark.
Anyway I’m starting to digress. I’m sure your here for the resources.
The CPD session gave an introduction to differentiation for NQTs and ITT students with practical ideas to take away.
Now if you’d like a copy of the PowerPoint click here.
I hope you find the resource of use.
Feel free to share your thoughts on differentiation.