Differentiation is vital to tap individual potential
Authored by Mrs. Navyata Goenka – Advisor, Mount Litera School International
Differentiation is a must-have tool for any teacher who interacts with groups of children. It essentially equips a teacher to cater to the developmental needs of each child under his/her care and enables them to progress at their own pace.
Differentiation also plays an important role in engaging all learners in the learning process at the same time. A good example of this is working in stations while engaging in Language and Math program, where children work on their individual learning bins. The tasks set out are to encourage their personal language and math learning goals. As and when the learner accomplishes a task the level is made more challenging. This way the child achieves his set targets at his pace and works alongside his peers.
It is not necessary for the teacher to plan multiple tasks each time if the task is open-ended and has scope for each learner to tackle it at his level of understanding. Planning open-ended tasks enables children to exhibit their understanding to the best of their individual ability. For example, to assess the conceptual understanding of the types of plants and their characteristics, children could be asked to illustrate or write out their reflections after a visit to a botanical garden. This flexibility helps the learner to focus on their own strengths, and it offers them mediums that are conducive to enabling each individual to display his or her understanding.
While differentiating, it is pertinent for a teacher to understand the different learning styles of individuals in a class. In a Primary Years Program (PYP) music class with varied learners, the teacher would most likely need to use different mediums to explain the counts of a quaver. He/she would probably need to illustrate, graph it out, count it, clap it or use flash cards. Also, the children may need to be grouped or work individually depending on their styles.
Differentiation most often demands the use of teaching strategies compatible with the varied learning styles in a classroom. These techniques help to reach out to the learner making teaching instruction value added and beneficial for everyone. Teaching art to PYP learners can be tricky at times because not all individuals are “artistic” in the conventional sense. While researching an artist, one could enable the use of technology for those who would like to research and depict the artists work using his/her creativity through different applications. Others could pursue their research by replicating impressions using creative mediums of their choice. Making learning flexible and setting common goals is vital to drive the community of learners in the same direction keeping in mind their unique styles.
Very often teachers add an extended task for individuals who exhibit readiness for it. This enables enhanced learning for those who are ready to go an extra mile. In an early years classroom during a summative task, the children were asked to create a lifecycle of any creature. They were given a variety of materials to choose from. The children used different things to depict the lifecycle. Some of them illustrated, some of them crafted it out and some used play dough to sculpt. Each of them explained their understanding in a way that encouraged their unique presentation skills. The task being open ended enabled the teacher to assess the concepts and skills keeping in mind the individual learner.
To conclude, a classroom devoid of differentiation is one that expects an elephant, a penguin and a monkey to do the same task. It is vital for teachers to tap individual potential, only then we can raise a community of confident individuals with a zeal to learn and grow.