A Journey Through Technology

Week 2: How do you make decisions about your own actions for students in a differentiated classroom? What is your criteria for intervention, and/or for letting learning happen?

on January 30, 2016

Right now, my classroom is not a differentiated classroom. Most of the time, all of my students are working on all of the same activities at the same time. In order to move towards a differentiated classroom, one of the first things I need to do is to determine how much my students already know. (2014) Once I know what my students know, I will be able to match my instruction “to meet the needs of individual learners.” (2006)

I use lecture a lot of the time to present topics to my students, but according to Weselby, students only retain 5-10% of the information they receive through lecture after 24 hours. (Weselby, 2014) In a differentiated classroom, students will have multiple ways of receiving information, including video, audio, readings, and lecture. (McCarthy, 2014) I will also need to adjust they way I group students in order to differentiate my classroom. “Small, mixed-ability groups allow lower achievers to take advantage of peer support whilst higher achiever gain the opportunity to organise and voice their thoughts for the benefit of the whole group (known as peer modeling). (2010)

As I work towards differentiating my classroom, I will be changing the role I play for my students. Currently, my students rely on me to be the main source of all of their information. “When teachers differentiate instruction, they move away from seeing themselves as keepers and dispensers of knowledge and move toward seeing themselves as organizers of learning opportunities.” (Tomlinson, 2001, p.16) This means I need to be able to relinquish control over student learning and “give students as much responsibility for learning as they can handle, and teach them to handle a little more.” (Tomlinson, 2001, p.16) I can be a bit of a control freak sometimes, so this will be difficult for me to do, but I am confidant in my ability to change. I think that students will also find this uncomfortable.

The past few years I have started to introduce Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activities with my students that require them to work in small groups and learn about new ideas without any direction from me, the teacher. When I use these, students appear uncomfortable as they take the lead in their own learning. From the reading this week, I can see that I need to let students know that “it’s a good thing to ask for help when it’s needed, that it’s fine to say you don’t know” (Tomlinson, 2001, p.22) I think the reason students dislike the POGIL activities so much is that they are afraid to get things wrong. During these activities, I will admit I have a hard time letting them struggle, but I think that students need to get things wrong sometimes because it will help them understand better when they finally get it right.

Although it is uncomfortable for both myself and my students, changing my role to the organizer instead of the dispenser of knowledge will help students take more responsibility for their own learning. “Different students will be ready for differing amounts of responsibility at any given time, but all students need to be guided in assuming a growing degree of responsibility and independence as a learner and member of a community of learners.” (Tomlinson, 2001, p.23)

My mind map for this week shows the roles I think a teacher should take in a differentiated classroom.

week 2 mind map


A Teacher’s Guide to Differentiating Instruction. (2014, April 30). Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Teacher_s_Guide/

How to Differentiate Instruction. (2006). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://www.fcrr.org/assessment/ET/diff/diff.html

McCarthy, J. (2014, July 23). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do. Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-ways-to-plan-john-mccarthy

Methods of Differentiation in the Classroom. (2010). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/MethodsofDifferentiationintheClassroom.aspx

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Weselby, C. (2014, October 1). What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom. Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/

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