Differentiated Instruction: How do I Apply it?
In this supplemental blog, I will discuss what may be accurately defined as best practices for secondary education teachers to adopt a differentiated curriculum and the step by step process of implementation. To successfully manage a differentiated program, teachers must identify the various learning styles and capacities of the students and implement a method of presentation that is comfortable with continuous evaluation of progress. I will focus specifically on the secondary education English classroom with the attempt to outline differentiated teaching strategies.
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Identifying Learning Styles & Learning Capacities
There are several ways to identify learning styles and learning capacities among students. I would recommend using two or more in order to get more consistent results. Identifying learning styles can be done by having students take two or three short assessments. Felder & Soloman created a quick questionnaire that locates whether students are active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global learners. For visual learners, use of bulletin boards, posters, videos, slides, flashcards, object demonstrations will be more useful. For auditory learners, podcasts, lectures, debates, discussions, reading material, interviews, letters will be more useful. Auditory learners are more verbal as well so giving these students opportunity to provide oral presentations on the material, brainstorm in groups, ask and answer questions, and provide their own commentary should be part of their learning. Students can be assigned two or more assessments on the first day of instruction and complete them online in class if there is access to a computer with Internet, or as homework. Once the teacher has this information, he/she will be able to group students according to the learning styles and/or capacities for different intelligences.
More complicated is the process of identifying the gifted learners. These assessments need to be done regularly and throughout the duration of the school year. One easy way to assess gifted learners is to administer the unit test prior to beginning the unit. If a student scores reasonably high on the test, the teacher can supplement new information and lessons for that student rather than forcing the student to repeat information. Bertie Kingore suggests ways to identify advanced readers include asking the students to provide a list of the last 10 books the have read independently, ask them to complete an interest inventory of what kinds of books they enjoy, check their past records, ask the students to complete a self evaluation of their reading ability. Once a teacher has identified students that are possibly gifted readers, he/she can provide a select number of reading samples and administer a reading comprehension test, and a writing skills test to those select students. Writing samples can be given in class during a designated time in which the writing is timed and on an assigned topic, or it can be an assignment the students can take home to complete within a specific timeframe. Both of these can be used for a more accurate assessment. Additionally, the student can complete a questionnaire asking them what they already know about the reading and what they would like to know. At the end of the unit, the student can complete another set of questions based on what they actually learned. This is known as a KWL Chart. These last two identification strategies can be used throughout the year, but gifted readers should be recognized early in the year so that lessons can be planned for them accordingly.
Once the teacher has an idea of the learning styles and learning capacities of the students, he/she can group them accordingly and begin to plan the lessons. The units may be the same for all the students, with differences in the type of materials and projects assigned to each group or individual. This does require planning and the teacher will need to be sure to provide instruction to each group or individual throughout the duration of the unit, whether to the entire class or at the group level or individually depending on the unit and the lesson plans developed. The groups may vary throughout the year depending on how the students progress in their learning capacity with each unit.
Differentiated instruction is a wonderful way to ensure that students are learning at a pace appropriate for them based on their learning styles, intelligence levels, and learning capacities. Differentiate instruction should provide rich and challenging material on subject matter that is relevant to the student’s capacity and interests rather than age.
Felder, Richard M., and Barbara Ann Soloman. "Learning Styles and Strategies." Web. 26 Oct. 2009. <http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm>.
Kingore, Bertie. "Reading Instruction for the Primary Gifted Learner." Bertiekingore.com. Web. 26 Oct. 2009. <http://www.bertiekingore.com/readinginstruction.htm>.