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Differentiation question - cynism

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by scaredstudentteacher, Mar 30, 2010.

  1. Is differentiation always negative? What are the positives?
    I am getting a bit disheartened by differentiating in my lesson and instead to promote equality I am using more outcome based differentiating which everyone says is the easy way out. I sometimes use task based but that signals more difference and even the HA in my primary class are asking after the easier task because it is seemingly less work.
    Maybe I am just being cynical but differentuation although essential in most people's eyes merely concentrates on highlighting certain peoples weaknesses. I like pupils' self -concept and am a firm believe in a teacher's role in developing that rather than showing children to be inept. [​IMG]

  2. You differentiate in order that learning can take place for all your pupils. If you don't differentiate, only some pupils will learn but not others - either too difficult or too easy. Differentiation comes from the relisation that children have differing ability, learning styles, curricular strengths and weaknesses, and you adapt your teaching to meet those differing needs. So it's a positive thing provided you don't label certain pupils as low-ability. Instead, by differentiating you are giving them positive self-image and respect, setting a task that is well within their capability. Your challenge is how to change a typical low-achieving pupil's poor self-image and lack of motivation by your differentiation, support and ample use of praise.
  3. Do also remember differentiation is not supposed to be about just giving the higher ability kids more or harder work. I quite often give my classes open questions to think about, you can also use mixed ability groups and challenge those who get something to make sure the rest of the group all understand too.The worst differentiation I've seen was, when you've finished the questions in Textbook A, I will give you Textbook B to work from.Also as Alex has said differentiation is about making sure everyone learns. So what about if you have a high ability child who has huge difficulties writing? Or has ASD and you are studying literature? etc.
  4. Agree with Bekabeech, why would the mindset 'If you do plenty of good work, then I will give you more work' actualy inspire some children? It does work for a few but I think they are probably a minority. I think HA differentiation is often more about reasoning and getting children to explain their answers while LA involves more scaffolding or making things accessible. Like the OP differentiation is something I have found difficult and it does sometimes feeel like a negative thing becuase you are supposed to be promoting equality, whereas it does set some children apart. I think you have to focus on the positive aspect being that learning is being promoted and that is where the equality comes from - all children being given equal opportunities to learn regardless of a variety of factors. That said, as a student, this is probably one of the hardest things to nail across the board.
    I am still unconvinced on the value of setting as a differentiation tool that many schools seem to use as a regular thing as teachers of LA classes often sound demotivated and frustrated and there are often more behaviour issues in an LA class because they may be LA because of behiour or their behaviour may be a mask to LA or because children with behavioural problems often get placed in a lower set regardless of ability (don't agree with it but it happens). Perhaps this kind of differentiation benefits the HA children who will be pushed harder. Any thoughts?
  5. leftieM

    leftieM New commenter

    I found differentiation really difficult too and have just finished some research into the theories behind it.
    Although some educationalists promote differentiation by task this is very narrow and, as you recognise, it can promote underachievement. Differentiation by outcome is perfectly acceptable if you have set open-ended tasks that allow for all children to show what they can do. Differentiation can be by teacher intervention. A method you can try is setting up groups for tasks in class and touch base with each group as necessary. If they are working away it frees you up to intervene and deal specifically with different needs.
    There's been a lot about differentiating based on VAK learning style but, at the risk of being controversial, learning styles are too simplistic a way of categorising a learner so it's a poor basis for differentiating (this is based on the reports by Coffield and DEMOS and the lack of any sound empirical evidence that pedagogy based on learning style theory has any positive impact on attainment.)
    Fundamentally you can't differentiate without applying good formative assessment and I suspect, as new practitioners, if we develop our pedagogy around formative assessment, differentiation will be a natural follow-on from this.
    As for setting - research shows that mixing abilities has no net effect on the overall attainment levels, nor has setting. However, setting causes lower ability children to lose out and higher ability children to gain. So, Bobby Carrot, you are right in your observations. However the government is on its 'personalised learning' bandwagon and, it seems, will not be toppled from it by any research findings!
  6. That makes it worthwhile, I realise it is true but I just feel for the few kids who can't do same work as the others and makes them sort of sidelined with easier tasks. It reduces my cynism to an extent I guess. Thanks. I heart self-concept theories and guess differentiation if used correctly actually is congruent to its development as opposed to the breakdown of it.
  7. Samjam1

    Samjam1 New commenter

    Ummm - of couse you have to differentiate! Surely this must be obvious if you are in a state mixed ability primary class? By outcome is alright and appropriate at times, but will just not cut it on many occasions. It is your job to promote high self esteem - but also to provide suitable work in order that all pupils can access the objective at an appropriate level.
  8. Sorry but I do have to say, everyone should differentiate if only throwing in some scaffolding, and some higher level questions. Even in *sets*. One of my top set has a wide range of ability, and my bottom set I am going to produce two sorts of the activity next term in the hope that something more challenging will help one disruptive character (he does seem to know most of the stuff before the others).
  9. Guys, I thoroughly realise that differentiation is <u>essential</u> but I just wanted to see what peple thought the positives of differentiation are. [​IMG] Thanks for the constructive ideas!!
  10. Samjam1

    Samjam1 New commenter

    Before I comment further, I should confess that I am not a student teacher - but someone who is now regularly mentoring students in primary.
    I don't understand quite what you mean with your question "What are the positives of differentiation"? Unless I am misunderstanding you, I can't see what the negatives are!
  11. Samjam1

    Samjam1 New commenter

    To make it more clear as maybe that post was not, I have been teaching 6 years - so i am close enough to remember training, but far enough to now be the school mentor! Hence my interest in students!
  12. I think something you (as well as the children) need to learn and understand is the fact that we are not all the same. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, which is why it is perfectly ok to be good at something and possibly not so good at something else yet. That's not a problem, it's just a fact of life. My class know that I'm really good at some things...but that I could not draw to save my life. I can't sing either...
    In English, my class are split into three groups. Often, they get different tasks to complete and possibly different objectives to focus on as well. At other times, I differentiate further through adult support or greater levels of independence. I find that quite useful, particularly because it helps me to push my Level 5s. They are mostly ok with having different tasks, since I try to make it varied and make sure that not just one or two groups always get the "fun" work to do. They are also sitting together in their group, which encourages greater cooperation and teamwork. None of the work they get is "easy", but it's different and aimed at what certain children still need to work on.
    In Maths, we are set. That doesn't take the differentiation out. I usually have three levels of difficulty, clearly marked with the level the work is at (3/4, 4 towards 5, 5). The children can choose which one they want to do. I'm not telling them what to go for, although I do sometimes mention it when I think they are underestimating their abilities and going for something that is too easy. When I set specific differentiated tasks with that group the year before, what you
    described did happen. Many of them wanted the easier work and felt discriminated against.
    By giving them the choice, though, they are mostly choosing the "harder" work, because they see it as a challenge. They are competing with and against their friends, and even my weaker ones attempt the harder tasks because they've got friends around them who will help to overcome any difficulties. It gives them a lot more responsibility over their own learning and the progress they are making.
  13. I've heard a lot of people say this. I teach electronics; the questions are either right or wrong. Unless we're looking at issues in sustainability or design, there is no such thing as an open-ended question. The answers dont' get more challenging; the questions do.

    In some cases it's just not possible to go by this idealistic view of open ended questions/more complex answers.
  14. I hear your tensions. I have always believed in the concept of as many pupils as possible mastering a topic before moving on. I was trained a long time ago!! Do I pay lip service to differentiation - yes. It is in my planning but really I expect pretty much all of my class to do the must could and should. It depends on the class. I believe differentiation is a tool to use some of the time. It depends on the class,setting, motivation, the topic and what you are trying to achieve. My students always achieve their target grade and the majority exceed it. I believe too much differentiation actualy widens the gap not narrows it. Not current thinking but look at what they do in the Far East.
  15. Interesting discussion.....I am a trainee teacher on the GTP route at the moment and am finding getting differentiation into my lessons a bit of a struggle. I think it is because I am thinking about it too much....I think I am trying to get very obvious differentiation by task into my lessons because it can be easily seen when I am being observed and judged against the standards. The last couple of weeks I have begun being more subtle with it....when the class have been doing an activity I have earmarked individuals that I will help....Is there any obvious ways that I can show differentiation is happening?

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