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Are you in favour of differentiation?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Differentiation: do you love it or hate it? Setting different levels of work for children according to their ability certainly creates more work for the teacher but does it provide pupils with realistic goals to achieve or limit their potential by creating a glass celing on their progress? One teacher thinks it's the latter:


    What do you think?
  2. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    No. I always set the same work for my top set flyers and my bottom set dislexics.
    dalersmith, ajrowing and nervousned like this.
  3. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    Differentiation is a topic that most educators feel very strongly about but, as demonstrated by reading the comments at the bottom of the article, there are many different views about what it means in practice, and therefore whether or not it is a good thing.

    I think most would agree that if you set the same task, with the same amount of support and expect every child to achieve the same outcome then you are woefully naiive or the task does not have enough challenge for the highest achievers. So, either the task, the support or the outcome must be varied according to ability. In my opinion any of these three are sometimes appropriate depending on the situation. If you are being observed, you had better make sure you pick the one that your observer thinks is 'correct'.
    01ade, BetterNow, peter12171 and 2 others like this.
  4. blue451

    blue451 Lead commenter

    Absolutely! Not sure about it being included in GCSE maths though.
  5. Oldfashioned

    Oldfashioned Senior commenter

    Nope. If by differentiation you mean the professional leading the class, who knows their pupils, will support those who need it: maybe. But making up three or four different tasks with differing outcomes: hell no.
  6. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    I often give pupils work they can't do.

    Always a success.

    As soon as I see someone using the terms "high expectations" or "low expectations" I know the rest won't be worth reading. Children need appropriate work that will stretch them.
    Laphroig likes this.
  7. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    I teach secondary A level mathematics.

    I teach differentiation and integration every year.

  8. Toomuchtooyoung

    Toomuchtooyoung Occasional commenter

    The French think it’s denying a child their right to an equal education. It goes against their Republic principle of Equality. Generally move advanced children support others in the class to finish tasks. - I got this from a research thing I did, don’t shoot me down if they don’t do this in Toulouse.
    I think teachers need to be aware of other options and be able to use a variety of approaches. Unfortunately our education system has become more and moe tunnel visioned and there’s the right way or the highway.
  9. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Differentiation is a wide ranging bunch of ideas. Some of them have received considerable criticism and quite rightly so.

    If I said to you, tomorrow we are learning how to run and so you are going to run a marathon then you’d laugh and not turn up, unless you could already do a marathon or were on the cusp of achieving it.

    If you were deaf or blind I’d have to differentiate activities for you.

    So there are a wide range of situations where we as teachers should differentiate.

    Within differentiation are individualisation and personalisation. An EAL student can use a dictionary to help themselves. Not all differentiation is done by a teacher. Some autistic pupils need wholly personalised approaches which are only for them and no one else. There are different types of differentiation.

    At the other end of the spectrum is all, most and some - differentiated learning objectives. Nonsensical.

    However, you would certainly circulate during a lesson and in giving formative feedback you are generally making things harder or easier for them. Even in questioning, the moment you make a decision over who is answering the question you are employing differentiation of work. In these instances, you are adapting tasks to make them harder or easier for children.

    What the real question needs to be is: are there things done under the label of 'differentiation' that could be ceased with the outcome being the same or better outcomes? And yes, there are.
  10. sabram86

    sabram86 Occasional commenter

    It's a bit of a nonsense, really. A teacher cannot arrange and manage thirty different "learning experiences". All the children should be on the same page, literally.
  11. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Had my some of my wise primary and secondary teachers not allowed me to work on "a different page with a larger number" I would probably have become alienated and would not be the person I am now.
    Some of the people I sat next to left school with only a few CSEs.
    mas_o_menos likes this.
  12. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Doesn't work with children of radically different abilities...I was in the same Maths group as a chap who became a University professor in the subject at 27...Me, not really very good at it. It wouldn't have helped me to have had to try (& fail) to keep up with him, or vice-versa. :eek:

    Oh, and there was streaming...we were both in the (still wide) top stream...;)
  13. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I agree with Frank, differentiation is only practical where a class has students of similar abilties.
    Catgirl1964 likes this.
  14. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Mixed ability classes are better for the pupils according to research - if you take the uplift to the lower attaining pupils it over cancels out the downlift (?) to the higher attaining pupils.

    I’ve always argued that some of this is a misnomer. Sets are skewed by pupils' self regulation abilities. So a pupil could find themselves in a class full of poorly self regulated pupils rather than an accurate set of pupils who can attain a certain grade range.
    oldsomeman likes this.
  15. OneLooseCrank

    OneLooseCrank Occasional commenter

    Apologies in advance for what I have retrospectively seen is a brutally long post!
    I teach English and have two approaches to differentiation that answer students' needs in accessing lessons, and a teacher's need to have a beer of an evening rather than be designing [30 (students) x5 (learning styles) x3 (ability range)] of activities. The two tasks simply put are, 1) scaffold tasks in order of difficulty, or 2) scaffold a variety of texts (probably the same thing that has been said over and over for years):

    1) I set a range of tasks in an increasing level of difficulty, so A < B < C < D < E < F. Students who can do A don't need to practise this and can start at B, or higher depending on their ability. As I tour the room, I can look at students' work and say, you haven't grasped A to be able to do B, and need to go back a step. I am sometimes told by my observers that I should use target grades to tell students where I expect them to start - I don't, for various reasons, but I see why they would want me to. I don't expect students to complete all tasks but to be progressing at the level they need as an individual...
    2) Unless I do expect students to be able to complete A + B + C + D in a lesson. I which case, I provide a selection of texts so that students are suitably challenged by their tasks - and yes, students choose the text they think they can access. I tour the room, look at their answers, and indicate to them if they are on the correct text.

    In both activities, students ask me how they can access the 'next level up', be it next text or next task. And I tell them. And I've been asked by observers to have students write down the verbal feedback I gave them 'as a record'. I don't, for various reasons, but I see why they would ask me to do so.

    You might think that the students waste time choosing the wrong activities or texts, but I see them thrive on the autonomy of choice and independence in their learning. I see them learning about their own limitations and their strengths, making them better abled to make choices in future. You might think that this sounds like a ton of work and task making, but It's one series of text-specific questions on one text, or one series of open-ended questions applicable to a range of texts. I find the biggest driver of student disruption is when they feel they are being asked to do something they feel can't do - but by making difficulty an 'opt in' thing, they don't feel this way and are much more settled. They also feel they can ask me much more than they would do if no differentiation was set, because in the later circumstance they feel they should already know, and already be able to complete the task.
    You might also think that finding a range of texts could be time consuming, but websites like Newsela.com bring together 'text sets', which are graded by difficulty, which all develop the same theme - Newsela even provides a question that can be applied to all of the texts. I also use BBC Newsround articles for their ease of accessibility, but then find a correlating article from The Guardian for the 'less accessible' text. This also ticks a nice SMSC box because it is current affairs.

    Differentiation really isn't hard to do at all, the biggest problem is that too many schools don't share their best practise to show teachers techniques that work. But SLT sometimes expect teachers to employ a style of differentiation that can't be made to work, because they themselves are too far removed from the classroom.
  16. cheshirekitten

    cheshirekitten New commenter

    If SMSC is a tick box exercise then does this mean that the SMSC provision is meaningless?
  17. OneLooseCrank

    OneLooseCrank Occasional commenter

    Virtually every lesson has in it some aspect of smsc... I'm not sure how you would make a lesson that was devoid of smsc! Making it a tick box or part of a lesson plan is just your opportunity to show you know you were doing smsc all along and aren't 'fluking it'. And smsc is never meaningless.
  18. tenpast7

    tenpast7 Occasional commenter

    Differentiation is great for everyone except the Teacher when it has to be prepared in triplicate to tick lots of SLT boxes.
    Accurate setting can minimise the need for it, and a good experienced teacher gets to know over time what works with all ability ranges.
    Therefore if SLT took a backseat, and left Teachers alone and then focussed on the behavior / expectations of pupils, then just maybe less teachers would be leaving British Education.
    agathamorse likes this.
  19. --Badger--

    --Badger-- Occasional commenter

    In a mixed ability class if you are not differentiating you are not doing your job properly.
  20. tenpast7

    tenpast7 Occasional commenter

    Keywords "Mixed Ability".
    Differentiation can and is done effectively by anyone who knows how to teach.
    It should NOT be another stick used to beat the Teacher with.

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