Differentiation is a term that is familiar to us all. However, really understanding the term, and effectively putting it into practice, can be one of the greatest challenges. There are various definitions for differentiation but to summarise: ‘differentiation’ is the process by which differences between pupils are accommodated so that all students have the best possible chance of learning.
There are three categories of differentiation:
differentiation by task, which involves setting different tasks for pupils of different abilities
differentiation by support, which means giving more help to certain pupils within the group
differentiation by outcome, which involves setting open-ended tasks and allowing pupil response at different levels.
Ideally, you should be using all three types of differentiation to accommodate the different learning styles in the classroom.
If in a lesson we rely only on differentiation by outcome this may not be seen as best practice and can mean that some students may only write one sentence. Therefore having a combination of all three is desirable. You can use the data you have at hand to gauge where the pupils are in their learning and to build a profile of the learners in your class. This includes those with SEN, the more able, but also those ‘in the middle’ who are often neglected because they fall into neither category – they quietly get on with their work and participate only when asked.
Take a practical and realistic approach to differentiation. When planning group work, try to plan so that groups can access work at different times in the week, so that the less able cover the work set at the middle group level by Wednesday for example – this saves planning four different types of work for each group, each day. Think of group work using a traffic light system: green for work they can do unaided once explained; amber for work that may require support; and red for work that requires a teacher or LSA ‘scaffold’ it. Then you can plan around the support staff that you have.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Try to use all three types of differentiation to accommodate the different learning styles.
Try not to rely on outcome as a differentiator.
Be creative with resources and support to ensure you are not spending excess hours planing.
Think about liaising with colleagues to assess which pupils are in need of differentiation.
Create a listening frame for students who struggle to make notes. This could be a worksheet with a set of sections on it, each one headed by a question, statement or category. The student can then use this to make notes. The sections will help them to order the information they receive. This will eliminate a thinking process for them, thus allowing them to concentrate exclusively on listening and writing. In essence, a listening frame does a bit of the work for the student, making life easier for them.<
Encourage your students to ask questions. There are many benefits to this, including:
• Students can ask questions at the level with which they are comfortable.
• Students can hear other people’s questions.
• Students can observe how the teacher goes about answering questions.
• The teacher can find out what areas students want to know about.
• Students can find out information from the teacher’s responses.
Discovery Learning is a method of inquiry-based instruction, discovery learning believes that it is best for learners to discover facts and relationships for themselves.’
You can build discovery learning into your lessons through:
• Group work.
• Providing some of the information and letting students work out the rest.
• Setting students independent tasks such as research or a design brief.
• Create a space on your classroom wall called the ‘Wonder Wall’. You might like to make this look like a wall by chalking bricks onto black paper.