The Art Of Differentiated Instruction

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differentiated instruction

“Don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb the tree.” Coming from different walks of life, every student has some unique talent and ability which often goes overlooked by certain treatment or teaching styles. Children have varying interests, family languages, and aptitude which isn’t deemed as important for educators, and all of them are put in a section merely on the basis of age.  The teachers also aren’t held accountable completely because they belong to the long chain of mass teaching and are products of the same. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ system seems to work fairly for the average scorers, leaving behind the students at the extremes of the ladder. Is it possible to create tailor-made instructions that will enhance the abilities of students and push them towards their best potential? Let’s analyze the same by looking at a few pieces of research below.

Credits – Youtube (Cadbury Bournvita)

Government and Private Schools in India on Differentiated Instruction

The Indian system is no exception to the dismal literacy and many studies have revealed this education standard of millions of students.  The National Education Policy 2020 has also acknowledged that ‘we are currently in a severe learning crisis: a large proportion of students currently in elementary school estimated to be over 5 crore – have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy, i.e., the ability to read and comprehend basic text and the ability to carry out basic addition and subtraction with Indian numerals. If action is not taken soon, over the next few years then we could lose 10 crores or more students from the learning system to illiteracy.’ 

People often presume that private schools provide faultless education and recognize the uniqueness among the dissimilarities. Despite having better facilities, private schools are also a part of the large Indian education system that has failed to focus on ‘quality education’ or ‘individual learning outcomes’. 

While Government-run schools strive to provide education for as many students as they can, private schools focus on higher grades favoured by affluence and the upper crust society. Dismally, both fail to focus on their priority, i.e the students, which leads to a lack of interest and motivation from children. 

Must Read: Current Education System in India

Understanding Differentiation Globally

The concept of differentiated instruction gained attention after the USA passed an act called  “No Child Left Behind Act, 2001”.  This was passed to provide equal and fruitful education for students based on their unique capabilities. It emphasizes the importance of accountability, flexibility, and research-based education which can further bring about the best potential in students. A similar movement was help in UK under the slogan ‘Every Child Matters’ which called out the educators from all nations to proved equal opportunities for benefiting education for each child.

The  National Education Policy 2020 provides education with flexibility, equity, and inclusion as its guiding principles and also facilitates and supports learner opinions and preferences. It defines an ideal school as a place, ‘where every student feels welcomed and cared for, where a safe and stimulating learning environment exists, where a wide range of learning experiences are offered…’ it further adds, ‘so that learners have the ability to choose their learning trajectories and programs, and thereby choose their paths in life according to their own talents and interests.’ 

It puts forward the choices, interests, and abilities of students by eliminating the units of science, commerce, and arts disciplines at the secondary level. It also grants provisions of multidisciplinary and integrated learning experience that gives teachers abundant choices to craft instruction based on multiple intelligences and VARK (visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic) learning styles. 

Also Read: Countries with Best Education Systems

Identifying the Learning Styles

The nature and nurture of every child are different which should be identified by their teachers. Children grasp knowledge at different paces and in different ways.  A teacher who recognizes and acknowledges these variations, and strategizes different methods for instruction is someone who practices differentiated learning. The differentiation expert- Carol Ann Tomlinson explains that ‘Differentiation is simply a teacher attending to the learning needs of a particular student or a group of students. Rather than teaching a class as though all children in it are basically alike.’ So how can a teacher tailor learning that reaches every child? Tomlinson says, ‘In differentiated classrooms, teachers begin where students are, and not in front of the curriculum guide.’ Therefore, the teacher needs to move from homogenous instruction to heterogeneous settings in the classroom, understand learners’ needs vis-à-vis curriculum and pedagogy, and incorporate it all in the lesson plan. 

Planning Differentiation

Planning the differentiation in teaching styles is art, philosophy, and psychology, all together. A teacher must be able to deliver the same material by analyzing and tapping onto each child’s best grasping potential. A learner varies in 3 major ways:

  • Grasping Levels– the degree of difficulty that a learner can manage,                   
  • Interests- learner’s choice of how to learn or ways in which to learn,
  • Learning Profiles –abilities, experiences, languages, culture, and backgrounds. 

A class consists of mixed-abilities and the teacher must cater to each student. The teacher can begin with an assessment to evaluate each student’s potential. They can then craft their content, learning process, expected performance, and product to accommodate each child’s learning needs and styles. They can use various styles such as progressive tasks, digital resources, collaborative learning, individual support, etc.

Ways to Differentiate Learning

Content: People have different types of memory such as visual image memory, auditory memory of written memory. These unique types can help teachers convey the same material by collaborating in different ways. Reading can also be conducted consistently for increasing vocabulary. 

Process: Educators may also add activities and examples for students to relate to each concept for better retention. It might occur that some students have a certain amount of mastery in a subject (English or Maths). Teachers can form group learnings, activities, and healthy competitions where each student can interact and learn from others.

Product: Teachers can use various approaches for evaluation to reap the best understanding level of each student. A child might be able to write better than they can talk. therefore assessments in the form of projects, presentations, written tests, vivas, skits, etc. can be conducted. Sincere participation and evaluation can help create a healthy learning environment. 

Environment: This is one of the most important parts of differentiated learning. A teacher must empathize with their students and be tolerant. These qualities might help students open up to their teachers in unimaginable ways. Teachers must always be sensitive to each child’s needs, background, personal problems, etc. These influence students in different ways that affect their learning.

Differentiated Learning still has a long journey to complete. A teacher needs to add extra efforts that will provide the world with great students in the future. However, these educators need appreciation and benefits for them to execute certain methods. The large hierarchy of the system still needs proper modifications to provide fruitful learning environments. The education departments and institutions are the roots of every child’s future and must not be overlooked. 

We hope you understood the importance of Differentiated Instruction with this blog. Let us know your feedback in the comment section below. Stay tuned with Leverage Edu for more such awesome content!

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