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What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?

 
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What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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Differentiation is the customisation of a curriculum to students' needs. It requires regular assessment of what students do and don't know and the offering of alternate pathways to ensure more complete learning. I would like you to ask you about that idea.

The notion of differentiation is attractive. To break away from the one-size-fits-all, heterogeneous delivery of curricula is, however, difficult to achieve in practice in a classroom setting. A review by James R. Delisle in Education Week (well worth reading) suggests that teachers trained to undertake differentiation are not doing so because it's just too difficult and, when it is implemented, leads to a dumbing down of the curriculum.

In the traditional classroom, even delivering a single pathway through a curriculum is time-consuming. This applies to all sectors of education: K-12, higher-ed and workplace training. Asking teachers to do more is problematic.

So if differentiation is alluring, how could it be achieved?

If we are going to burden teachers with the requirement to offer individualised curricular attention to students we must unburden them in some way.

What do you relieve teachers of in order to allow them to direct their energies?

The simplest step is to reduce the tedium of assessment. Educational technology can assist in that regard, and this help will be especially needed if the frequency of assessment needs to increase to accommodate differentiation. But as assessment is based in a curriculum, you cannot simply offer assessment without first knowing the curriculum. So another necessary step is for greater support for curriculum design from institutions or governing bodies. Unburdening teachers means revealing them of the necessity to reinvent curricula to prepare lessons (at least significant parts) for each day. Ironically, this would mean that in order to achieve differentiation efforts need to be combined, which leads to greater standardisation.

I've been paying attention to the School of One who have been running a very individualised and differentiated curriculum that is responsive to daily testing, that's right: daily. The memorable part for me was the attitude of teachers involved in the program who felt they had been relieved of the administrative facets of their usual job so they could instead focus on what they were good at - teaching.

With evidence pointing towards an educational future without differentiation, am I wrong to hope for it?

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

If I were asked to put two chapters together from two diff texts in order to answer the questions in Michael's post, then my choice would be the following:

1. Tasks in a learning community (Ch 6): Rinaldi, C. (2006) In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching and learning, London: Routledge.

2. The organisation, the method  (Ch 13):  Watkins, C. (2005) Classrooms as Learning Communities, London: Routledge.

Seeds to be planted, for the development of the affordances/functionality in terms of the role of technology.

D

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

In the extreme, the idea of differentiation implies a cycle where content delivery is continuously adapted according to students' response to content delivery.  Students of all ages will have different learning styles, and a simple yet effective way of categorizing these may make it easier for teachers to plan and justify their plans.  This may include identifying those who prefer visual, audio, tactile, or verbal learning, or those who prefer different levels of structure and flexibility in the learning environment.  Some individuals will be more emotional while others may respond to their environment in a more intellectual way.  

Structuring lessons in ways that enable students to use different paths related to different combinations of these elements, while still reaching the same kind of outcomes may be important.  Perhaps lessons can be structured so as to allow students to choose the path rather than placing the burden on teachers to create paths that fit with specific groups of students.

Within a school, older children could be given the task or designing a lesson or presentation on a certain topic, aimed at a younger age group.  Their teachers could then offer some guidance as they then actually deliver those lessons to a younger group.  The younger group can then be assisted to provide appropriate feedback to the older students.  In that way teachers retain appropriate control while empowering students.

I am presently looking at the same kind of issue from a different angle.  The use of computers and the internet in the field of mental health has grown significantly in recent years.  In programmes that have been developed, there are varying degrees of therapist / human input.  On the one extreme, "e-mental health" is delivered in a fully automated way (reaching many users with little effort), while on the other extreme therapists use the internet as a tool to communicate directly with clients unhindered by geographic distance, but retaining the high level of input needed for individualised treatment.


 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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There are several problems this.

First, learning styles. Thoroughly debunked. If they are your starting point, then you are in fairlyland.

Second, we are using language like "where content delivery is..." implying that education is something that is done to students. It isn't.

I would rather go back to where Moodle started: https://docs.moodle.org/23/en/Pedagogy#Social_Constructionism_as_a_Referent. If you believe that learning is something students do themselves, as part of a social group, then naturally, each student's contribution is shaped by that student's particular interstes - at least if the course is set up to allow that. So, it should not be about determining which bit of content  to spoon-feed each student next. It should be about creating educational environments where each student can have some direction over their own learning.

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
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...and the research to support your claims Tim?

do forgive me.....might this thread be better off in the teaching with moodle forum.....I can't see any links with research aside from my chapters which relate to research....are running risk of going off topic! That would be a shame.

 
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Picture of Sean Dicks
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hi Tim

Thanks for the references.  I believe they will be helpful.  Apart from the way that I have expressed myself differently to you, I think we are on the same page, acknowledging that students are different, and that facilitating environments in which students empower themselves is more important than spoon-feeding them.

Would you say that the teacher has more responsibility (or a different responsibility) than the students in the co-creation of the environment in which learning takes place?

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Having read this thread again, and reflected, I think we have come full circle, could be wrong.

But as it stands I see it like this:

Tim: it should be about creating educational environments where each student can have some direction over their own learning.

Sean: Perhaps lessons can be structured so as to allow students to choose the path rather than placing the burden on teachers to create paths that fit with specific groups of students.

Michael: There is still a need to present content in an appropriate modality and providing alternative modalities is important when a student needs re-exposure to a concept to reinforce their learning; something very much necessary to achieve differentiation.....You understand the notion of providing alternate paths. I think it would be a great experiment to compare self-selection of paths vs guiding a student based on assessment. In the School-of-one model I mentioned, assessment was the driver.

And the evidence for the above is in the research outlined in the Chris W book, about research with teachers.

Cheers,

Dawn


 
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<quote> Michael de Raadt

Following on the Learning Styles discussion, I thought this was a relevant post that summarises some research on the topic...

http://www.wired.com/2015/01/need-know-learning-styles-myth-two-minutes/ </quote>

picture is from above link

learning.jpg


is there a way in moodle that allows a person to classify and categorize activities and resources to above?  both to teacher and students?

when i state classify and categorize.  categories can only get so deep, before additional information in how things are described, needing a more flexible way to input extra information (classify) that does not follow a particular set path.

=====================

example student raises hand, and states does not understand it. so then, teacher goes through some Q/A session with student and rest of class to re-explain things... is there a way to use above picture notations. to classify and categorize information in moodle.  so instead of student raising hand and stating does not understand. they can click a button "i do not understand",  and it pulls up a list of how they want to go back through for information?

if i goto www.google.com and i can use various keywords / terms to search for stuff.  but in a classroom and you are learning, i do not expect student know what a "run on" is, in say grammar class, or what a exponent is in math.  if student is forced to goto www.google.com what additional terms could be "automatically" be put into the search box in google for this or that to "classify" and "categorize" each activity and resource within moodle?   these extra automatic search terms = instead of a teacher doing a Q/A with student. it is driven through moodle itself. with some simple Questions and Answers, with some optional paths to follow...

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

The school I mentioned earlier (NBSC) uses a grid in Moodle that has Multiple Intelligences on one axis and I couldn't remember the other so I asked Steve and it was Blooms Taxonomy. In large class sizes, roaming teachers and small groups the learners choose from this grid of over a dozen activities on the topic, with some activities marked as compulsory. They have been working on this concept for 5 years as a whole school so they must have a whole lot of activity packages available! They are getting impressive results from students with this method and now teach other schools how to apply differentiation.

Joyce (@catspyjamasnz) Moodle Tool Guide broke up Moodle activities against Blooms taxonomy which I found really useful in my early Moodle days. I later released a version named 'Moodle for Motivation' based on this that addresses different motivations using a matrix used by game designers. The aim was to encourage diversity in assessment methods to engage different learners.

The initial post asked 'What is Differentiation"... the posts so far, as  summarised by Dawn, show a few different contexts  we can use this term: learning styles, skills level, motivation, etc. Mary and Ralf gave examples of differentiation when delivering content to learners, which can be time consuming. I find it easier to think about differentiation in Assessment. The qualification framework I use encourages us to offer a range of assessment methods, so learners can demonstrate competency by writing an essay, practical demonstration, or answer a series of verbal questions etc. It is up to me to provide the range of suitable methods for the task at hand. People obviously prefer certain types of assessment methods, and can usually adapt to something that doesn't suit them, but if the teacher only offers one method this  puts some learners at a disadvantage. The students I deal with are often 'drop-outs' from the main stream system and face severe anxiety around exam time. It takes months to convince them that I have a very flexible assessment system. They really don't believe it when I say they have already met all of the requirements and they don't have to sit for a final test. I wish other schools had this flexible system of the Aussie Vocational (VET) sector.

As for the comments about evidence based research, I have been reading some really interested papers on theories around Motivation. The models are being used in Artificial Intelligence to program human-like behaviour. (I think they have more money for quality research then ed tech ) Just briefly, Dorners PSI  theory is that we have 'fuel tanks' that need refilling at certain points. Every action we take can be mapped ( at the lowest level underlying culture, gender, styles etc)  to our physiological, cognitive and social needs. Our next action may be driven by hunger, a need for competence, affiliation or to reduce uncertainty.  http://www.muenster.de/~euroconn/amagrabi/downloads/PSI.pdf. As there are too many interconnected factors to fully predict human behaviour, the empirical evidence being collected is done through a process of programming characters based on these theories and observing if the behaviours and choices made seem human-like. So far they can replicated poor performance: http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/Papers/agents-affect/NazirEtAl.pdf All of this is great information for educators interested in the future of how technology is influencing educational changes.


 
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Picture of Hugh Edwards
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HI Nathalie. 

I read with interest this thread on differentiation and in particular this post you made:

"The school I mentioned earlier (NBSC) uses a grid in Moodle that has Multiple Intelligences on one axis and I couldn't remember the other so I asked Steve and it was Blooms Taxonomy. In large class sizes, roaming teachers and small groups the learners choose from this grid of over a dozen activities on the topic, with some activities marked as compulsory. They have been working on this concept for 5 years as a whole school so they must have a whole lot of activity packages available! They are getting impressive results from students with this method and now teach other schools how to apply differentiation."

I can see the benefit of that with SEN, standard learners and high achievers and fitting into Bloom's. 

The question I have (I'm currently setting up V2 of our moodle environment for the next generation of e-learning in our campus) is how that was technically achieved in moodle itself? I can understand the grid mentality on paper, but how was that actually reflected in moodle courses?

Any pointers would be gratefully received! smile

All the best 

Hugh.

 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hello

I believe it was done with a simple image map. Each hotspot was manually linked to a Moodle Activity. See attached example from NBSC Moodle.

I was after something  visual that gives some indication of progress. So I used a  HTML5 development tool and embedded this inside the Moodle course. Example of my interactive treasure map. If you agree to the Facebook connection this posts achievements for your friends to see:

http://deadlyskills.clay.io/game/deadlyskills  (password is guparr to get past the social media screen).

It took a lot of time to develop and the learners just wanted to tick all the boxes and play the game in 5 minutes (instead of the 5 months I had in mind).

It would be great to get something like this connected directly to the Moodle Gradebook. 

I stumbled across something super easy today. The Progress Bar plugin now has a feature to be added to the Home Page (I don't think that was there before?). So the Learner gets clear indication of their progress and links to activities that need completing. Thanks Michael!


 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hi,

Ryan & Natalie, lots of really interesting stuff....lots!!!!

OK. Going to try to break it down to include my response to those points in both your posts, really thought-provoking.

re: click a button "i do not understand",  and it pulls up a list of how they want to go back through for information? ? these extra automatic search terms = instead of a teacher doing a Q/A with student. it is driven through moodle itself. with some simple Questions and Answers, with some optional paths to follow...

How this works in terms of marrying up purpose of each tool and its functionality is down to the developer's creativity in the development of the drop-down menu...informed by how teachers and learners translate the purpose of those tools....sounds complex-but a question of being selective for best fit (I think). 

re:  Joyce (@catspyjamasnz) Moodle Tool Guide broke up Moodle activities against Blooms taxonomy

 Love it! yes nice template for further innovation in moodle...how? Needs further thought/playing around with ideas.

re: Differentiation by task/outcome. a very flexible assessment system.

Agree 

re: Dorners PSI  theory.   is that we have 'fuel tanks' that need refilling at certain points sounds like Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  In that paper it explicitly states Too amny interactions to determine DV and IV ( I have drawn attention to the impossible task of keeping variables constant in human experiments, previously). 

On that note, the second paper:  http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/Papers/agents-affect/NazirEtAl.pdf

although interesting,  this extract:

Extract:

2.2.1.4 Masculinity-femininity This dimension can be defined by the degree to which a society focuses on  assertiveness, task achievement and acquisition of things as opposed to quality of life. Gender is a big factor in defining rigidity in cultural roles. Members of cultures high in masculinity value performance, ambitions, things, power and assertiveness. Members of cultures high in femininity value quality of life, service and caring for others, e.g. in masculine society students are encouraged to compete and praise the success of the winner. The countries which Hofstede (1972) found distinctly feminine included Sweden, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, Finland, Yugoslavia, and Chile.  Countries that were high in masculinity included Japan, Austria, Venezuela, Mexico, Switzerland, Ireland, Jamaica, Germany and Italy.

Doesn't consider values, morality, ethics, religion etc so, other variables that might contribute to outcomes -again problems with DV and IV measures...but I liked the pretty diagrams /flowcharts.

Cheers,

Dawn



 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

i did not want to flood this thread... so i forked it per say....

"fork 1" of What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?

i butchered the thread up to this point, and added some comments. in attempt to "make my own notes per say", and to give some classification / categorization, to the thread.  so many broad views and change in direction. and then getting into niddy griddy details in different areas...  i needed a way to grasp conversation better. in that i applied thought of turning this into a RPG (role playing game).

 
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Natalie Denmeade and dawn alderson i am following you both to extent of "broad over view" and i am having trouble connecting the dots between broad over view, and getting down into the niddy griddy finer details.  guessing lack of knowledge / experience, more so when it comes to psychology. and being able to break things up into a way a computer could process the information.  to me, you are more along the lines of speaking about a "enemy AI" in a game. and how the enemy builds up its base and units, before coming at me to attack my base and/or units. but you two are more in detail about. the mental state, dealing with confusion, re-forcing things. and in that area... your over my head, i can say yes what you are talking should be required and taken into account. but i honestly have no idea beyond that, 

any suggestions for internet based reading material? or other information, to up my game per say!

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

No worries Ryan, will get some resources together  and post here... am sure Natalie might be able to dig out some stuff-if not others too smile

cheers,

Dawn 

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Here you go Ryan, 

all seminal texts I have read these across my career and dip in to them still....they have been around for more than two decades-keep getting updated with new Editions...so sound stuff

Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour 6th Edition,  2010 Richard Gross

A First Course in Psychology - 1993 Nicky Hayes

Doing Psychology Experiments David. W. Martin 2008 ( I think is latest Ed)

hope helpful.

Dawn

 
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Picture of ryan sanders
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

thx dawn! was able to skim / read about 30% of "psychology: the science of mind and behavior" in google books before i lost "preview limit" the other 2 only about 20 pages were viewed before loosing preview limit threshold. 

local library does not have anything in there connected card catalog websites. for any of the books.  looks like time for some shopping. ebooks cost more than printed books. i wonder if local collage would allow me to sign up to there library hhmsss. *waves* and thanks again dawn!


 
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Picture of dawn alderson
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Ryan....you can get these on ebay....I don't think it matters too much about the Edition....you are looking for a general foundation, so perhaps ebay might be  a plan.  Colleges won't let you borrow texts if you are not an enrolled student.

I would start with Nicky's book.....if you are interested in child/adolescent-development and societal/cultural connections.

Gross.....heavier.....focuses on the 'areas' in depth, so perception/attention/memory and so on..

the third book by David....this will outline the intricacies around research and the language associated with experimental design.....once you are familiar with the language and the concepts....you will be able to unpick the detail in research papers much better.

cheers,

Dawn

 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Perhaps you would prefer the two page version ....

bitly.com/mfm2013


... and It's free smile  Creative Commons licensed building on minds of Gavin Henrick and Joyce Seitzinger

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
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I was going to cite this higher up, but waited to see if someone else did. But isn't there an interactive version? I thought I saw one this month?

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
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Hi Ben, thanks for the nudge about the interactive versions, I found it here:

http://www.moodlenews.com/2015/moodle-2-interactive-tool-guide-gets-an-interactive-treatment/

I think it looks interesting.  For new teachers in primary schools, secondary, FE...especially those new to using an LMS such as Moodle, it appears it might be useful.

When it comes to HE, I think the attempt to enhance the original doc below, appears too prescriptive and echoes a need to do-in order to know how to do things effectively to use the tools, combined with repetition in part, might be off-putting for users in HE. And my understanding of Blooms taxonomy is that it has lived so long because teachers/lecturers can make it their own...that is the beauty of such a well-established model for education.  

bitly.com/mfm2013

I also think, in marketing twitter feeds that share the same information....says....there is only one way of seeing.  Just my two-pence worth.

For those reasons I prefer the original light-touch version, with selective twitter feeds too,  for the context of HE.

Dawn

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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Hi, Ryan.

The image from the article was meant to exemplify learning styles, but I don't believe it was an endorsement of the example.

Also, I don't mean to suggest that, as evidence is moving against learning styles, we should be critical of people using them. I've used learning styles ideas in my own teaching in the past. But I think we should stop endorsing them.

Of course, as Sean mentioned above and as the article suggests, we do want to consider presenting content in an appropriate modality and I'm in favour of offering things in multiple relevant modalities if it helps reinforce concepts.
 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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Hi, Sean.

In relation to learning styles, I think evidence is against such a notion currently (Howard-Jones, 2014, Krätzig & Arbuthnott, 2006, Pashler, 2009). I'm not sure it's as black-and-white as Tim suggests, though. There is still a need to present content in an appropriate modality and providing alternative modalities is important when a student needs re-exposure to a concept to reinforce their learning; something very much necessary to achieve differentiation.

You understand the notion of providing alternate paths. I think it would be a great experiment to compare self-selection of paths vs guiding a student based on assessment. In the School-of-one model I mentioned, assessment was the driver.

I'm not sure students, even more advanced students, should be the main mechanism for deriving alternate paths, perhaps some. Ultimately I think the potential to achieve these additional pathways will rely on shifting responsibilities and scaling up.

 
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If I understand correctly what you and Tim are saying, teachers need to somehow facilitate an environment where students create knowledge through interaction rather than spoon feed them, but at the same time teachers need to set certain parameters within which that knowledge creation takes place rather than leaving it up to students to choose their own paths, or create their own learning environments.  

Further, back to the topic of this thread, the facilitated environment should take into consideration the experience that students are different in certain ways.


As for learning styles, thank you for highlighting the current research on that topic.  We can assume that it has some validity, whereas we can also remember that as "knowledge", it was also socially constructed rather than been "discovered" as an indisputable "truth".


 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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Following on the Learning Styles discussion, I thought this was a relevant post that summarises some research on the topic...

http://www.wired.com/2015/01/need-know-learning-styles-myth-two-minutes/

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Thanks Michael for this, I read the paper-old research eh.

It got me thinking, tis my bedtime....so sleepy response, but I do have an itch I cannot scratch about this.

Learning Styles...I do agree the title is misleading, it doesn't do justice to the notion of there being subjective-preferred ways for learning.  Makes me think of when I used to try and explain to students in my very early teaching career, the idea behind kinaesthetic learning...I used to say, 'explain to me what it feels like to ride a roller coaster without moving your body!'  What a  clown

 I realise now, I wasn't making a very good connection with the students at the time-and they told me!  I have never really managed to get a grip on the learning styles thing to be honest...as someone else stated here...it is usually explained in sessions with a questionnaire handout and that is that....mmmmmmm.

I found this:

 http://www.learningstyles.org/MMPALT_III.html

But, I must be honest, and I  say this with a tiny smile-well a bit of a grin....actually sorry laughing now-it all reminded me of the notion of Scientology...you know a group of people/followers with no real evidence to support claims-I could be wrong.

The thing is, to really get to grips with the role of the senses in learning, it requires a large amount of experiments with humans....standard testing with regard to memory, perception and all the other psychological paradigmatic stuff...I think one has to be on board with the associated measures and outcomes to really believe there is any merit for L&T.   

Don't get me wrong, I do think there is a place for impact measures, pre-post-designs; evaluations and so on in ed/tech research, but I think those who participate should have agency and voice across such studies too.

To close-with a grin, and to highlight the extremity of my point about the experimental method, I draw on the Simpsons episode, when the family give electric shocks to each other.... they start off reluctant...and Bart gets the ball rolling and in the end they all simply cannot get enough of electrocuting each other!!!  Lab study mockery of an experimental design....not all variables in human experiments can be held constant whether control group or not-but I digress.....

Just some really random thoughts.

Dawn     

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Thanks for the link Michael.    It contains useful points and, for me, highlights the flexibility of the mind, and its ability to adapt rather than being "locked in" to a specific "style".  A good point is made regarding how a focus on learning styles which  "encourages teachers to teach to students' intellectual strengths rather than their weaknesses.”  could great a self-perpetuating cycle.  

The sentence itself seems to acknowledge that (although they are seen as flexible),  for this danger to exist, the development of individual intellectual strengths and weaknesses may be possible.  I wonder if this reflects the same observation made by those supporting the "learning styles" idea, only using different words. 

"Differentiation" implies that there are different "somethings" around which lessons can be structured. These "somethings" may be called learning styles, intellectual abilities, intellectual strengths and weaknesses, multiple intelligences, or anything else.  In each case there will be arguments that the wrong term is being used.   Perhaps the point is that becoming attached to any one way of looking at things is not useful.  Instead, allowing the different terminology and its particular theoretical basis to be useful when it is useful, and moving on from it when it is not might be recommended.

 
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Picture of Ralf Hilgenstock
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Differentiation is one of the hottest issues in German schools. I joined several discussions. We have 'normal' schools with pupils that have different strengths and we have also schools for pupils with learning disorder.  The general trends ist to close most of this special schools and to integrate the pupils in 'normal' schools.

The most obvious problem for a teacher with 25-30 pupils is to prepare learning material on different levels and different ways to work with the material.
The most often named wish is not to create groups and to define material to groups. They wish to connect a ressource or an activity to individual students. The students should only see material  that is published for them and the teacher should get an overview for the whole class including access to the submissions to give them feedback from a central place.

A secondary aspect is search and find material all over the plattform as teacher. This requires full text search and (!) meta data.

Teachers are critical against automatical selection of next learning step based on student behaviour.  The problem is that this needs a logic, but there is not only one logic that makes sense in the reality.

Example:
A student gives the wrong answer/fails in quiz. What is the next activity?
 a) the same learning objective but on a lower level - you've failed, but may be  you are successfull if it is easier or on the lowest level
 b) the same learning objective but on the same level - try it again?
 c) the same learning  objective n the same level but in a different type of activity
 d) the same learning objective but  on a higher level. Sounds paradox, but failure happens if students are underchallenged
 e) an other type of learning objective.  Try something different. Come back to this issue another day.

The question is: what is the logic to understand why a student fails or succeeds.


 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hi,

Ralf, pretty recognisable items outlined there, thanks.

OK.  I am going to refer back to Chris's book (Chris Watkins...honestly, a text for us all-whatever our expertise/knowledge and understanding....tis a core teacher training text/MA text and Doc text for the domain of education, here in the UK).

I am going to differentiate the three main points in this thread...as I see it:

1. Classroom practice ftf

2. Online practice

3. Tasks in a learning community

But, there are generic considerations for all three:

A. learners feeling in charge of learning

B.Motivation is social, learning is social

C.Community goals 

Let us suggest C. is where the other two stem from.....let us just agree on that for now....everyone's practice is different...but let us just nod for the sake of peace at the moment...

So, how community goals are developed and made explicit, in the end is in the lived experience, which convinces learners that this is beneficial way to operate....paraphrased from Chris W

It is therefore, the teachers job to facilitate that.

Characteristics of tasks, which contribute to building a learning community can be summarised into three elements:

1. to enable experience

2. for reflective activity

3. in order to learn

So it goes:

such tasks can impact on engagement or drift, challenge or boredom, and feelings of competence or failure.  Essentially, differentiation whether by outcome or whatever....needs to be INCLUSIVE..whether one is planning tasks for high achievers in a group, the child with Down's Syndrome or the adult with arrested development!

D    

 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hello

Michael please keep your rose-coloured glasses on and hold that vision of differentiation. I believe that standardised outcomes do not require standardised delivery.

On the point of: "What do you relieve teachers of in order to allow them to direct their energies? " ... a few years ago after an iMoot session by Chad Outen I was inspired to try out something different with my class of sleepy students one afternoon. I had three of the most 'boring' topics to cover:  eg OHS, CSS Styles. As the students entered the room they were handed the 15 page print outs on the topics and put into small groups.  The plan fo rthe afternoon session was explained. My prep time was 10 minutes to print out the topic notes, create a blank Moodle glossary, and put some notes on the board - that was about all I did all afternoon.

Each group selected a notetaker, speaker and timekeeper. They had 40 mins to prepare their 5 min speech to teach others in the class three basic points. They were very entertaining and totally surprised me with who volunteered to be the presenter. There was lots of laughter and I was still sitting up the back not doing very much. At the end of the speech each person individually used the Moodle glossary to enter the assigned question and their answer. They then rated each glossary entry out of 1 - 3 stars. They were so interested in how their mates rated them!

The glossary activity gave me the evidence of assessment I needed without much effort on my part. This method  saved me so much preparation and nagging time. The feedback I received from students was really positive. One student who had never before participated much asked if we could use that format more often. ( I nearly fell over in shock!)

On reflection I see a number of principles being demonstrated here. Firstly choice of the role you play in the group. I often use this formula of small group activities to encourage peer instruction. I see the groups rotating roles and encouraging people as trainees in certain areas. As the semester progresses I will step in as the coach if this hasn't happened yet. Secondly, the rating aspect is highly motivating ( likes on Facebook - thumbs up on Youtube) these are so much are part of our online culture these days that the few people who are concerned about privacy can refrain if they prefer. I can't explain the difference in the energy in the room that far out-weighed the exceptions.  It also adds a point of accountability to know your entries will be read by others - so they were more inclined to listen to the presentations and make notes.

Last semester I tried something a lot more ambitious and set up small groups based on a Game of Thrones 'tribal' competition. I also set up a separate grouping system of guilds that matched Units of competency. The people who expressed an interest in that area became guild leaders and were given a Moodle course to collect resources and issue badges . (I made them non-editing teachers and changed the name of the role to Mentor).  They could give out a Master or Mentor badge to other students. I was amazed at how accurate their assessment skills were.

In this scenario I play a very different role. I encourage and rely on peer-assessment and peer-instruction and judiciously use technology to free myself up for the  things a computer can't do!




 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

And on the point of 'learning styles' ...
Howard Gardner (the developer of  the notion of "multiple intelligences.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/16/howard-gardner-multiple-intelligences-are-not-learning-styles/) says:

"1.       Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of "one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively. Of course this is easier to accomplish with smaller classes. But 'apps' make it possible to individualize for everyone.

2.        Pluralize your teaching. Teach important materials in several ways, not just one (e.g. through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play). In this way you can reach students who learn in different ways. Also, by presenting materials in various ways, you convey what it means to understand something well. If you can only teach in one way, your own understanding is likely to be thin.

3.       Drop the term "styles.” It will confuse others and it won't help either you or your students."


Personally, as  someone who works as a developer and  Ed Tech researcher half the week and teaching 1 - 2 days  week with real live humans, I am fascinated by the variety of motivations I observe. I aim to create an environment where learners can choose to learn solo or in groups and at their own pace. I have kept the Bartle Player Types in mind and this underpins my design. I see the classroom (and life) as a multi-player role play game. Bartle came up with eight player types in MUD games using three axis of:

  • player vs world (system)
  • act vs interact
  • implicit vs explicit


Although the player type  approach is not a reliable predictor of complex student behaviour it has value to me as a designer to be diverse in my methods. 

My approach is also based in System Theory - that each group interacts in systematic ways that obey implicit rule and expectations. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0144341940140103). This is a different focus to individual theories as it focuses on the role you are playing now in this context. I was re-reading a book  on student behaviour today (yes a real paper book) from my uni days when I was training to be a teacher. I was looking for more info on how differentiation can not only address the important goal of more effective learning but also the flip side of  coping with the class-clown, chatty people, know-it-alls, sleepy heads and griefers. My memories of school (and brief stint as a casual teacher)  left me in no doubt that keeping these people occupied or harnessing and re-directing their motivations into a constructive channel makes the time less stressful and productive for everybody. 


PS ... The best way to achieve differentiation in Moodle will be to make Outcomes 2 a priority for Moodle Development. What can I bribe someone with a the dev meeting next week ... ? https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-40230

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

This all sounds fascinating Natalie.

 I notice you are in Australia, shame....I would have liked to have met over coffee with you...to learn more about your research remit...and how that links with your teaching...nice to hear about the research-teaching nexus from colleagues in the field.  Never mind...maybe we might SKYPE one day, in order to put some ideas together for collaborative input/outputs.

cheers,

Dawn  

 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 
Hey Dawn,
We can have a virtual cup of coffee some time ( or wine as it will most likely be midnight as it is for me right now). I have been researching this topic and would like to hear your insights in play and learning. After googling you and the book you edited I am sure we have lots to discuss. A recent Phd I have been reading distinguished between adult and child play - in some languages they are different terms. Find me on Skype as nat-ar-lee.

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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"Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of "one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively"

Text like that makes me want to stop reading on the basis of it being obvious platitudes.



 
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Mary Cooch
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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I don't plan to join in this discussion (because i am busy in another place!) but I am reading it with interest. However, I must say, reading the comment of Marcus in terms of "Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of "one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively" while it's an ideal to aspire to, it's so depressingly difficult to achieve when, for example, you are in a secondary school with 32 11 year olds of mixed ability for two hours a week.  And you teach 22 out of a possible 25 lessons a week and you have ten different classes of pupils.

There are of course strategies - the Market place teaching technique is one I've used for instance but this doesn't lend itself to all subjects - I used it successfully in Geography but it was always going to be  a non-starter in French, for example.

The nearest I got was with a small (ie about 13) class of Special Educational Needs students doing a basic ICT qualification and using the computers. Each lesson (three times a week) I would work out what they each had to do to progress and add it to their named page in a Moodle book. Then when they came in, they were told by me to go to Moodle, find their name in the book and get on with the work. Then I would spend the hour lesson going from one to another ensuring they understood what they had to do and were on task. (Exhausting and I had to update their book pages three times a week.) Of course, even then there was the pupil who asked me to read the page out to him. Not because he couldn't read (they could all read at least at the level of a 9 year old) but he just couldn't be bothered reading it himself.

So differentiation in a class of 32 is always going to be a compromise of some sort. Yes - varying the activities so everyone gets something they like (lecturing/group work/pair work/reading/writing/performing) etc - but it is HARD sad 

And then there is the temptation by some teachers to see differentiation and Extension work as merely more of the same:  Lower ability - you do questions 1 - 10 -higher ability - you do questions 1 - 20 and Extension work for those who have finished - you do questions 20 -30. Because it is easier than devising innovative varied tasks for each individual.

Anyway - I am back to that other place nowsmile

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hi there all, it is a very interesting thread, as you say Mary.

Oh dear Mary, that sounds a bit chaotic in the least!

In Wales, the curriculum expectations are as follows:

Teachers are expected to differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of all students. For pupils whose attainment falls significantly below the expected levels at a particular stage, a much greater degree of differentiation will be necessary.  Pupils with additional learning needs may receive extra support.

An example of focused differentiation e.g.  for pupils with Down Syndrome is here: 

http://www.down-syndrome.org/information/education/curriculum/?page=2 


Mary, hope I am being helpful here...but you mentioned the other place where you are busy-I can imagine with so many students! Yikes!!!!

Do you think Andrew might be lost?

 https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=278443

 
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Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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I'm glad you responded Mary as I thought my post might come across as a bit negative but I have a bit of a problem with a great deal of writing on education. The term "Multiple Intelligences" sounds like a title that Buzzfeed might use for click bait. When I did my PGCE in the mid noughties I could not believe the amount of nonsense dished up as part of an allegedly serious academic course. Fortunately I had an awesome tutor (shout out to Mr Chris Letze) who let us to take it all with a big bag of salt. My favorite ludicrous bit of theory was the Honey and Mumford learning styles quiz that had all the credibility of a Cosmopolitan Magazine "Does your partner love you" quiz. For me Honey and Mumford is a nice dressing to be drizzled on salad.

Back to the topic..... differentiation is a fine idea but done properly would require 2 hours of preparation for every hour of delivery and technology could help given multiple paths through material based on student responses... 


 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Hi Marcus,

you have a useful rating there.....now, aloof tends to be trademark of mine......but I can and do get picked up on it.....so Goose...Gander

when you say:

differentiation is a fine idea but done properly would require 2 hours of preparation for every hour of delivery and technology could help given multiple paths through material based on student responses... 

It would be 'useful' I think...could be wrong, of course, if you might have time to elaborate on that fine gem of aloofness, like ;)

Question: what is Cosmopolitan Magazine?   Is it a theory for Tech/Ed-because I have not come across that before, to be honest.

D

 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

Mary - if you are still reading ...

The snippets of time we have to develop a repoire with students and the class sizes are crucial factors here. My first chance to observe high school was in an ed tech support position in small space between two classrooms. I watched the same group of students with different teachers and was amazed at how they morphed into different beasts in each lesson and teacher. I  am sure I learned more from this than I did in my formal Dip Ed at Uni I was inspired to pursue.

After a brief stint in secondary school I chose to teach at TAFE (Vocational College) because the smaller class sizes do open up so many options and I found competency based assessment more aligned with my values. A series of management choices found me in teaching the same class 12 + hours a week so I developed a much deeper relationship with learners and I started blocking topics across weeks rather than the semester. and I suggested combining the Cert III and Cert IV levels. Spending more time with the students feels so much more natural than the rapid timetabling in highschools.

Although the framework I work with (ASQA)  encourages holistic delivery and assessment,  in practice we break it into chunks and dish it out to different teachers. This creates the need for jam-packed timetables. Having the same students for much longer time spans has both advantages and disadvantages. It takes away the focus on specialisation and takes me out of my zone as the expert on every possible topic which in hindsight i can see as  a blessing. For me smaller class sizes, extended hours with cohorts and multi-skilled learning communities with rolling enrollments is opening up opportunities within a traditional institution. Yes it is hard work - but not so much in time as in my energy to be constantly creative and flexible.

One of the most inspiring presentations I heard  last year was from Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney http://www.nbcs.nsw.edu.au/ . They have taken an institute approach and worked at it over the last 6 years and are getting amazing results. They first changed the physical layout, then the cultural and virtual space. They decided to combine classes into groups of 150 students and  use laptops and Moodle courses with a grid of activities students can select  - one axis was based on Gardner's Intelligences. http://www.slideshare.net/ldunphy/creative-learning-spaces-12978220?qid=10967721-2192-4ea6-943a-167a23d375f7&v=qf1&b=&from_search=8

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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Having read all the way through this topic and having been only mildly confused by the mention of Mary and Ralf who don't show up in nested form until the bottom, let me tell you about differentiation at my institution, which serves gifted students.

We use Diagnostic Testing --> Prescriptive Instruction in our math courses. The following is what I saw in our f2f courses back in the 90's.

Students take a test on Day 1. The test starts with arithmetic and goes up through the end of Algebra 1. The test is graded to discover what the student does not know.

The student gets a list of chapters to read in the Alg 1 text (for example, Chapter 3, 5, 8, 9, etc.). There is no lecture (except in Geometry classes). Students read the chapter. They start with the last problem in the problem set because that is the most difficult. If they can answer that problem, they have a chat with an instructor or teaching assistant, then they take the chapter test. If they cannot solve the last problem, they move in descending order until they find a problem they can solve. They consult with the instructor or t.a. If they're deemed ready to move forward, they take the chapter test. In this way, students avoid the repetition ("reinforcement") of doing the whole problem set.

In this way, 7th grade students finish a year of high school math in 3 weeks (this is in the summer). I have seen students complete 3 years of high school math in 3 weeks. In our summer programs, students take just one course 7 hours a day five days a week. 105 hours of "seat time."

We have a large online department (I'm part of that, but math is not my area) where the same principal is at work, although I believe students cannot start with the most difficult problem.

For us, the key is not just to automate assessments, which you really can't do all the time because students need to show their work, but to avoid lecturing, to avoid repeating the same information to masses of students. Lecturing punishes students who grasp the point quickly. Rather, the instructor walks around the room dealing individually with students who have questions.



 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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Most of the gifted students I have encountered were gifted primarily because they were doing considerable work including repetition at home, well before coming to the lecture (or rather not coming) or taking a test. They "self-punish", so to speak, and don't need others to do it for them. smile

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

I hear you Itamar.  I hear you loud and clear.

In finding a comfortable niche is safe...cosy...but, one needs to look around and seek out those friends and colleagues, who  can see a big picture quickly-they just can do that-they are intuitive, creative and most of all honest because they believe in the good for the cause-not themselves-and are willing to take time to share that vision with you-that my friend is priceless.  

You need to grasp that with both hands for growth....otherwise we get way-laid with pointless stuff ...we micro-manage...we have a list too long...we dither, we lose sight, we waste time, and we lose focus on what is important in the long term....like tennis...short game-fab ...we are in it for the moment by contrast the long game....wears out the opponent....the long game scores long term points for long-term impact .....even without consecutive aces.  And that, can be self-nurturing when we need to solve problems for future productivity...but hey! Life gets in the way too thoughtful  

D   

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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I think, Itamar, I'd distinguish two kinds of students.
  1. Kuman (rote memorization to the max)
  2. Students who "speak/learn" algebra.
1. Even as a non-math person administrating a math program (which I did for about 2 years), it was clear to me that many students, including adult me, could be taught an algorithm without really understanding it. You just do the machinations without understanding why or how. You get the correct result. *Many* gifted students got to this point in arithmetic. 100% of arithmetic students learn how to do this.
Kumon is, as far as I understand, drill and kill. So, yes, if you're in a Kumon like program, you're going to bore yourself to death doing "reinforcement."
2. For 20 years, I had F2F conversations with 7th grade students about what it was like to take the College Board SAT test. Very many said, that with little prep, they understood the "language" of the math part of the SAT. They had little to no prep for the Algebra questions. (This changed in the late 90's, when SAT prep and qualifying for our program became a status issue for gifted and thus an industry).
I'm saying that many of our students "intuit" the language of algebra and score on the SAT well enough to qualify for our courses. At the 7th grade level. NOT having taken Algebra 1.
 
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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 
I was reading this article and thought it ties in with the discussion around learning styles:
https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/the-learning-pyramid-true-false-hoax-or-myth/


 
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Picture of Travel Maniac
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
 

I believe differentiation can be achieved once the education system acknowledges how much creativity vastly over achieves traditional teaching methods. The reason students today lack much interest in schools is mainly due to it's robotic, cooperate teaching methods. Applying new methods that allow students to accomplish achievements on their own creatively would encourage their participation, and to challenge their own ideas.


Schools today aren't allowing creative ways in learning. History has already proven from the greatest thinkers, inventors, philosophers, etc, all were creative learners who used and challenged their own minds idea of self improvement skills. Not relying on graded scales and percentage markers to define their intelligence. Nicola Tesla, and Albert Einstein were both geniuses, yet drop outs. Could this be a hint that maybe "differentiation" methods can be achieved by following their examples. To break away from our modern idea of learning and replace them with more simple independent matters.

The internet today is releasing the veil of knowledge that anyone curious enough can find. Meaning schools and teachers are no longer a main priority and making learning a direct method with a simple search. I even learned a new language because of the internet in 3 weeks, in comparison to the schools method of waiting two semesters. Maybe differentiation is already occurring on a grander level now that online exist. Schools should without a doubt change their teaching methods before the education system loses all credibility.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: What is "differentiation" and how can it be achieved?
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IT would be nicer to address a person rather than a meaningless (to me) alias, but you have touched on something that I have also argued. Many, if not most, teachers still consider themselves as the front line troops in perpetuating the accumulated knowledge and received wisdom of the ages. Schools, like universities are no longer the sole repositories of knowledge, and have shown themselves incapable of passing on received wisdoms. This has led to a number of issues and debates about the effectiveness of teachers, schools and public education in general, at the same time as perpetuating the myths of STEM subjects as being important and PISA testing being necessary. 

Ever since the massive expansion in our knowledge base during the 20th Century, the limitations of our education systems have become increasingly obvious. yet, like any elephant in a room, it is either ignored or completely misused to beat teachers up with, particularly by the bullies who would be called our political leaders. If we really care to track our progress, we would see that the modern classroom is not that different to Socrates' ancient gymnasium. There have been changes, few positive, many negatives, sure, but the essential ingredients are the same. 

The most negative changes have occurred, I suggest, as a deliberate misinterpretation of people like Piaget and Vygotsky. Knowledgeable people have used constructivist theories to interfere with the development of children, rather than enhance it. Children need knowledge presented in a way that is accessible for them, not controlled and doled out grudgingly in schools that are run in exactly the same way as factories. Accessibility should never be limited and a child's interest should always be fanned, but how to do that, our current systems cannot achieve.         

Ken Robinson suggests we should apply the "Alien Test" to our education systems. If an alien landed on Earth and examined our education system, it would deduce that the most successful people in our society would be University lecturers. They have not left the system, or have returned to it to become academics.  

It is this kind of background that "differentiation" is offered as a way of "enhancing" the education experience. Word games, that all these are. Learned articles about trash. The best education experiences I have seen have been stepping back and allowing students to get on with it, just feeding them the tools they need to run with things. Letting them go where their imagination and interest takes them is a much better alternative, I suggest. Easily achieved in some subjects, like humanities, social sciences and science, impossible in maths. (Which leads me to suspect the wisdom of teaching maths like we do, as a separate, independent subject. It might be more helpful to drop maths as a discreet subject but include it as a part of every other subject.)  

Agghhh! C'en est assez....

 
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