Over the weekend I’ve been reading about differentiation and specifically whether it is an effective teaching strategy. I have been quite surprised to find that it’s not as effective as many of us believe to be so and there are schools that no longer use it.
Differentiation is a teaching strategy no doubt used by many teachers throughout the world. Some use it because it is insisted upon by management and others use it because they always have and cannot envisage why they should not. When I was first introduced to differentiation I thought that it would help children in my class in their learning. Over the years I have realised that differentiation doesn’t actually do anything of the sort, and actually makes my role as the teacher more difficult as I try to come up with three different activities for the same objective for every subject I teach so that the three ability groups in my class can ‘all achieve their potential’.
I now consider differentiation a hindrance in my teaching and a dam that holds children back. Instead of focussing on the original learning objective that I based my lesson around, I ended up with at least three different objectives that tried to meet the needs of each ability grouping in my class. This is not of my own design but a prerequisite of management, my planning must show that I differentiate every lesson and termly book scrutinies check to see if it has been done. If I do not, I will be reprimanded.
My professionalism is questioned every time I teach, if I do not differentiate I cannot be an ‘outstanding’ or even ‘good’ teacher. This is of course absolute nonsense but management don’t think that way. As long as I show that I am differentiating then my life as a teacher can go along smoothly, continue playing the game.
I don’t like playing the game, teaching isn’t game playing. I will continue to question the use of differentiation and will hopefully find educationally sound reasons why we need to use it rather than the ‘because Ofsted expect to see it’ excuse that is so often peddled out.