Differentiation is Vital to Being a Great School!

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February 27, 2019
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Differentiation

Differentiation is Vital

Differentiation is vital to setting and achieving effective academic goals. You can’t just teach one thing in one way and every child is going to learn as effectively as each other. Children come with different background knowledge and different skill levels and they learn in different ways and at different rates.

Differentiation

“The concept of differentiation moves teachers away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach.” (Greg Parry)

Carol Ann Tomlinson is a world leader in this field and she points out that teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or their learning profile:

  • Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
  • Process – what are the learning activities that help the child make sense of or master the content;
  • Products – culminating projects and tasks that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in their classroom; and
  • Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.

“We have to understand our learners.” (Greg Parry)

Rates of learning

Can you imagine giving all children just 30 minutes of time to learn to juggle? The next day some children will have achieved a lot and for others it will seem like they did not learn anything at all. Learning literacy and numeracy can be exactly the same. Sometimes we need to take longer and we might need to learn in different ways. Some students may be satisfied with a very basic understanding while others will extend above and beyond. Children might end up juggling complex words, sentences and maths problems far beyond what the teacher expected them to learn.

“Children progress through material at different speeds, according to their own learning needs and abilities. For example, a student might take longer to progress through a given topic, skip topics that cover information already known, or repeat topics on which they need more help.” (Greg Parry)

Learning Styles

Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, USA, is famous for his identification of seven distinct learning intelligences. This theory has emerged from recent cognitive research and “documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways,” according to Gardner (1991).

According to this theory, “we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.” (Gardner)

Kingsgate International school embraces the multiple intelligences to ensure the needs of all students are met and learning potential is accelerated.

We do not believe that each child has only one learning style to be catered for. That is a simplistic understanding of different learning styles.

“We have many different challenges to solve and many different mindsets to solve them. It makes sense to embrace every different learning style and approach to leave no stone unturned in the learning process for different kids.” (Greg Parry)

How Else Can Children be Different?

  • language proficiency
  • background experiences and knowledge
  • motivation
  • social and emotional development
  • levels of ability to think in abstract ways
  • physical needs

“Differentiation is a way of teaching and it is a school culture. It is not a program or package of worksheets. It asks teachers to know their students well so they can provide each one with experiences and tasks that will improve learning. I think it also includes children having a say and ownership in their own learning.” (Greg Parry)

Differentiation

What Does a Differentiated Education Program Look Like?

  • student differences are studied as a basis of planning. Teachers truly understand the nature of their children then plan accordingly
  • student differences shape curriculum as well as learning strategies. Textbooks alone cannot do that. They provide a foundation but not the complete learning pathway.
  • preassessment is typical. We check what students already know before we start teaching
  • multiple learning materials are available. We use textbooks as well as technology and many other sources of information
  • multiple options and learning pathways for students are offered. There is often more than one way to achieve deep and applied understanding.
  • students make sense of information in relevant ways rather than just memorisation and then recall. Emphasis on concepts and connections is made. Students understand in context.
  • there is variable pacing. Students can move faster or slower depending on their progress at any time.
  • students aid in setting goals and standards. They have some control over the learning process.
  • excellence as an individual effort is honoured. We care about “distance travelled”, not just the number of students who achieve an A result. We care about progress from a B to an A, or even a C to a B.

……differentiation is Kingsgate!

Kingsgate International School takes pride in being a school that is different. Students’ learning is differentiated, it is individualised and targets the achievement of key benchmarks. We know ALL students CAN achieve success given the time, support and professional differentiated instruction.

Contact us directly to learn more about why our school is better!

For more information about differentiated classrooms (Carol Anne Tomlinson)

 

CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry