A post about classroom management here on the blog recently evolved into a conversation about differentiation, a subject which I’ve written about before…on this blog and as part of my graduate studies but it’s time to revisit the subject.
Why Heterogenously Group Students?
This is an unintentionally misleading question that presumes that there are groups of students who exist in this world who are exactly the same. Even if you had a group of students who were identified as gifted or identified as english language development (ELD) level 2, for example, and grouped them together in one classroom you would find that those students each have different talents, different learning styles, and unique strengths and weaknesses.
Whether classes are intentionally designed or chosen randomly there will never be a classroom in which a teacher doesn’t have to differentiate to the individual needs of those students.
Teachers who complain about having students of different levels haven’t realized this yet. Your students will always be of different levels; that’s teaching. You will always have to reteach to some or all and present lessons in different ways to appeal to different learners.
The reason for including students who are identified as gifted as well as those who are identified for special education in the same classroom is that in the world, those same people will not be separated but will have to work together.
Universities and the workplace themselves are set up heterogenously. It’s presumptuous to assume that it is only the gifted student who has something to offer a classroom full of students. If a team is built in a classroom then all students support each other in their learning, both academic and social. In a classroom where there is discussion and collaboration, learning is no longer a solitary activity but one which involves problem solving, collaboration, and communication. Students identified as gifted can be challenged in such an environment at the same time that students of lower levels can be included in class activities on their own level.
While parents have the option of sending students to magnet schools, charter schools, public schools, private schools, or homeschooling and can make their own decisions for their children, there are great advantages for students and schools in heterogenous classrooms.
As for teachers, let’s agree that we will always have to differentiate our instruction for the diverse learners we have in our classrooms. It’s not an option.
Please post your ideas and concerns below. Why isn’t differentiation happening? How can we ensure that it does?
continue with Differentiate This! Part Two: How?