Teacher-friends of mine have likely done a HUGE double-take on this title.
You see, I’ve been a pretty loud advocate for differentiated instruction and have led a good number of trainings on the concept and approaches for the past 12+ years. However, in the past 7 years, I’ve been quietly moving beyond it, embracing a better approach. And while I’ll still continue to help teachers who ask me to help them figure it out, I can’t stay there, intellectually.
You see, I think that differentiated instruction, while vitally important in many classrooms right now, isn’t a solution on which I think we ought to spend much more time and resources. It’s really not what our nation needs for our students’ preparation for life. I believe this because at its core, differentiated instruction is about modifying a curriculum and modifying instructional practices that are, for the most part, outdated. It’s about doing old-school better. And while that’s a good thing and perhaps the reality of where many classrooms are, I believe we ought to move beyond “old-school” and putting up differentiated instruction as the goal to reach.
As educators, if our purpose is to help our students to survive school, to “get through” school, or to get to the next level with more academic content in their brains, then differentiated instruction is something we must truly embrace and implement.
However, if our purpose is to help kids prepare for the challenges of an independent life, to be “lifelong learners,” we must stop finding quick-fix solutions to the current educational system. We must rethink and rework the current system in order to provide a broader range of “messes” for our kids to wrestle with. To solve. To overcome. To learn through. Because “messy” is precisely how life comes at us.
“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” ~ John Holt
If our purpose truly is to prepare students for their futures beyond just the next four years of their lives, we have got to stop finding better ways to do place the proverbial “bandaid on the open heart wound” and make some real changes.