Sunday, November 9, 2014

Is differentiation an effective strategy?

Color Your life by Capture

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.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

What I love most about teaching

I love teaching.
I love teaching even when outside influences do everything possible to make it the most difficult and time consuming job in the world.
I love teaching because I make a positive difference in the lives of the children I teach.
I love teaching because there is nothing quite like it, every day brings new surprises.
I love teaching because every class is different, made up of individual personalities that fill you with laughter and joy.
I love teaching because I get to share those moments when learning has clicked.
I love teaching because I find it challenging and rewarding.
I love teaching.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How do we improve our teaching?

It seems that now, more than ever, every facet of teaching and learning has come under the microscope that forms every teacher's Performance Management. I have my own PM coming up later this month which will examine my performance during the 2013-2014 academic year. The discussion will examine in great detail the targets that were set last year and ascertain whether or not these have been achieved using evidence that I have gathered. Afterwards a new set of targets for this academic year will be set and the PM process will continue. I can safely say it does not improve my teaching.

What helps to improve my teaching is my own analysis of how effective my teaching is. I manage this by reviewing lessons I have taught and checking through work produced by children in my class, I read over notes I have taken during the day and adapt my next day's planning if required. I look for gaps in my teaching that may have left children behind in their learning and ensure that in the next lesson these gaps are filled and their learning is more successful. Research and strong evidence of good practice also helps build a clearer picture and develop my teaching. It might seem like common sense but with the fast paced teaching and learning classrooms that outside influences have helped to create, teachers find themselves with less opportunities to reflect on their teaching and improve it.

It's only by looking closely and focusing on the details that my teaching will improve. How do you improve yours?