It's easy to be frustrated at the numerous "trends" in education. Educators are constantly bombarded with new ideas, new vocabulary, and yes, new policy. It seems that just when teachers have mastered understanding and implementation, the trend loses its luster and a new one replaces it. One educational trend in particular, differentiation, has inspired both love and hate. Critics say it's an impossible goal to customize every lesson for every learner.
Advocates claim that each student deserves to be taught at the correct level of difficulty; otherwise, it's a futile endeavor. I am going to ride the fence on this one and say both positions have merit. Critics have a point about the overwhelming feeling teachers get when they begin to think about personalizing lessons. To make matters worse, PD on the subject can be confusing, intimidating, and guilt-ridden. Supporters believe that a teacher can be more intentional in planning lessons that benefit the maximum amount of students. Most “new” ideas in education begin with a perceived shortcoming. In the case of differentiation, could it be that years ago most high school teachers lectured, assigned homework, and gave a test at the end of a unit and moved on to the next unit? I know that was standard for my high school experiences! Even if you are uneasy about the "differentiation situation," take a look at the protocol below. With the help of Bruce Campbell, I have listed ways to incorporate differentiation in the classroom.
TIER TIME (Writing, Reading, Discussion)
Description: Comprehensive in manner, Tier Time outlines various approaches to differentiation within a classroom. Author-teacher Bruce Campbell encourages teachers to use more than one approach within a lesson.
Application: Tier Time is appropriate for all classes and levels of students.
Process: Examine the six different approaches:
Campbell, Bruce. “Using Tiered Activities to Differentiate.” 2nd Annual SDE National Conference on Differentiated Instruction: Theory Into Practice. Las Vegas, NV. 18 July 04-21 July 04.
Alison Thetford, M.Ed