Sunday, January 25, 2015

We don't need differentiation, we need to be be better teachers.

I read the following post 'The dangers of differentiation and what to do about them' by Andy Tharby (@atharby) earlier today. I would suggest you read that first then come back here. It's an excellent post and I believe that Andy has gone some way in demonstrating how ineffective our current form of differentiated instruction is at the moment. I believe that we are holding back many children due to our obsession with differentiation in every lesson.

Differentiation means well. In a recent post on EdWeek, differentiation takes the following factors of student learning into account.

  • It seeks to determine what students already know and what they still need to learn.
  • It allows students to demonstrate what they know through multiple methods
  • It encourages students and teachers to add depth and complexity to the learning/teaching process.

The problem with this is that it can be unworkable in the classroom. The teacher ends up spending too much valuable and productive time on the time-consuming activity of planning for three separate activities that end up not meeting the planned for lesson objective.  Andy Tharby's lists a 'Differentiation Hall of Shame'. 

1. Differentiation because you think you should. 
2. Differentiation to meet an outsider’s expectations.
3. Differentiation according to prior-attainment grade or target grade. 
4. Differentiation that takes time away from planning subject content. 
5. Differentiation according to all/most/some.
6. Differentiation that does the thinking for them.
7. Differentiation as a life sentence.
8. Differentiation as a list of rules!

You are the teacher, you know your class better than anyone else. You should be able to adapt where you see fit, to change a lesson at any point when you realise it's not working. You should teach your whole class and then respond as and when to those students that need you to make the progress they richly deserve. 

The most effective differentiation takes place inside the teacher’s thought-processes. - Andy Philip Day

We need to teach our children well. We need to ensure they understand what it is they have been taught, and they need to be able to demonstrate this understanding before moving onto the next lesson.