Yesterday, I wrote about the emerging consensus that differentiation instruction can maximize learning for more students. Skeptics point out that differentiation is one of many movements that have run through education, and argue that eventually, the differentiation movement will subside. I disagree. Differentiation is a belated response to the fact that people are different. They have different motivational levels; different intellects; different interests; differing tolerance for challenge; and different levels of persistence. They arrive in school with vastly different levels of preparation. They graduate to jobs with different demands, jobs of which now require employees who can learn new skills and master new tasks.
As I mentioned yesterday, differentiation of instruction places
tremendous demands on teachers, parents and students. If more than one
level of learning is going on in the classroom, it means that the
teacher is spending less time "teaching" each of those learning levels.
Without adequate support, the teacher may be expected to prepare more
than one "lesson" for each of her elementary subjects. Clearly, if
we try to differentiate instruction by delivering instruction in the
same way as before, the differentiation movement is bound to fail.
commenter has argued that differentiated instruction is the wrong way
to describe the goal, and that we should instead call it
"differentiated learning." That phrase signifies the increased level
of responsibility that differentiation places on students to become
managers of their own learning process. If differentiation is going to
work, it stands to reason, that in the earliest grades, we should
develop students ability to learn how to learn. Some people will
identify strands of this idea in the Montissori movement
-- the idea that in the earliest grades students should develop a sense
of responsibility to participate as a partner in the learning process.
other fundamental change that is likely to support differentiation is
the explosion of new technology that can support differentiated
learning. Some of this new technology comes out of the Home-School
movement, which has had to find ways to support parents who are
attempting to teach subjects that they may not know. Much of this
technology is springing out of a recognition by text-book publishers
who have just begun to scratch the surface of accommodating textbooks
to computers and the internet.
Universities are now developing internet based high level courses that
allow distance learning for persons not enrolled at the university. A
company known as Khan Academy has created a powerful resource for the support of mathematics learning. Khan academy boasts a library of over 2,600 videos covering
everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 303 practice exercises, to help students learn what they want to learn, at their own pace. A website called Purple Math
provides a vast collection of resources that can help students who are
struggling with algebra, or students who want to accept the challenge
of learning algebra, before it is offered in school. A company called Thinkwell produces
an array of college level courses, many of which provide a series of
lectures delivered by outstanding university teachers. All of these
resources, if properly integrated into the classroom can make the
differentiation process more palatable for teachers.
Summary of Decision Network for Excellence
Washington Supreme Court Blog
JvonKorff on Education, The Rose Decision
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part I
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part II
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part III
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part IV