A Case Against Differentiated Instruction

10 08 2013

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instruction is about modifying a curriculum and modifying instructional practices that are, for the most part, outdated.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.

Blooms Webbs DOK PBL Differentiated InstructionLet me explain…

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.

http://fmp.cit.nih.gov/hi/ Title: Coronary art...

 

 

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5 responses

10 08 2013
stangea

I will agree with you, although I have not been seeing differentiation as an alternative to PBL or inquiry. We need to move toward these authentic learning experiences. I think we need to see differentiation as an integral tenent of inquiry.

10 08 2013
GingerLewman

Inquiry and differentiation might go hand in hand. However, understanding that the idea of PBL is not the same as “doing projects,” https://gingerlewman.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/12-ways-to-know-if-youre-in-a-project-based-learning-environment-or-merely-having-kids-create-projects-in-your-classroom/ I’d venture to say we might use some differentiated strategies, but that PBL is an entirely different approach from plainly differentiating traditional curriculum and instruction.

I wonder if our idea of what PBL is might be significant in this discussion. I want to be sure we’re using similar vernacular.

11 08 2013
A Case Against Differentiated Instruction | Goo...

[…] 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 co…  […]

12 08 2013
Melody Polson

I concur… we do need to prep all our students. And for more than a bloody exam…
Differentiated is essentially how I view ‘grading’, rather than how I view the PBL– yes, I format a ‘rubric’; but how I score is also based on the student’s inherent skill set, and the effort… or the ‘phone-it-in’ product. If Spec. Ed kid B manages to get the number of images into the power point… I’m a happy camper. Whether they are ‘related’ might take a grain of salt… The point is, I’m not going to score it at 100, but I might give it a high 80– the top scores go not just for effort– but understanding, and art and unique perception…
If my Spec. Ed kid manages that as well… even with grammar or technical issues… that project may score higher.

The point behind PBL is to teach as the student goes his or her own way… it is hard on the teacher. It requires our lessons to be fluid and adaptive to the kids in the classroom at the moment… and THEIR questions, not the pending ‘high stakes question’.

Some kids need help structuring every paragraph… heck, sometimes it is sentence by sentence. We, as yet, don’t use ‘voice recognition’ in testing, so I haven’t permitted it in the classroom. I have recommended it for parents… I’d rather the kids get the practice organizing thoughts, whether they use a computer or a writing implement.

21 08 2013
A Case Against Differentiated Instruction | Tho...

[…] 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 co…  […]

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