Students lose concentration on educational materials when educators do not proactively use instructional strategies that correspond with their learning styles.
Watts, et al (2012) in their study entitled, ‘Differentiated Instruction: Making Informed Teacher Decisions’, put it that although the concept of diversifying instruction is not new, its significance has grown in schools where a significant number of kids are not achieving the top levels of literacy.
In schools all over the world, teachers and administrators struggle with the complexity of adapting instruction for kids with widely varying literacy requirements, interests, and strengths.
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Why are some students tend to lose focus and become indifferent in the classroom? And with their negative attitude towards learning, they drop out and the school’s dropout rate increases.
This is alarming.
It is common for students to disengage with schoolwork if we teachers do not make an effort to tailor our lessons to their individual learning styles.
As a teacher, I can alleviate this problem by implementing differentiated instruction concepts, especially in the higher education classroom.
Why Should I Differentiate Instruction?
For centuries, educators have known the efficacy of differentiating instruction. Hence, as a teacher for years now, I am very confident in the reasons why I design learning experiences for my students in such a way that it responds to their interests, readiness, and learning perspectives.
Differentiation shouldn’t be thought of as extra work. It is using the best of what we know to help all students learn. If you want to answer the question, “Why should I differentiate instruction?” here are the 5 best reasons to promote diversity in the classroom.
1. Diverse needs of students
Diverse learners in a classroom need a lot of different ways to learn. One size does not fit all. Students’ needs vary widely. Their unique academic and social needs must be met so they will make the best of their learning.
For me, differentiating instruction is the best way to accommodate all the diverse needs of the students. I have proven it right and effective. Meeting the needs of my students has been very challenging but it’s worth it.
Seeing them enjoying the learning activities, displaying fulfillment in the varied tasks, and doing their best to complete the assigned tasks are the best scenes in the classroom.
Thus, I do understand the importance of differentiating instruction and the entire framework. A full grasp of the role of differentiation in education will lead us to craft activities with respect to diversity.
For me, differentiating instruction is additional support in addressing the needs of the students. Students aren’t the same. To put it forward, I can’t just use one single activity for everybody.
2. Unique interests and preferences
Our students have unique interests and learning preferences. As a teacher, I make it a point to make a profile of my students at the beginning of classes. I used a survey of interests and background learning to give me an idea of my students’ preferences.
It’s part of getting to know our students. I know that we have students who really require additional planning and support. Some may have learning disabilities and difficulties that need to be recognized so we can create a truly welcoming and safe learning environment.
Hence, as teachers, we should be proactive in getting to know our students so we will know where they are and how they are. We can’t just possess that passive attitude of indifference.
Not sure where to start? Try making a survey of their interests and preferences. Try to know what they enjoy doing that has relevance to students’ academic growth.
3. Varied readiness levels
Teaching the same way is a bad practice. Hence, as a teacher, I am very careful in planning the learning activities and see to it that everything is aligned with the varied readiness levels of my students.
If I am not careful, it will result in student disengagement and poor student performance. One strategy will not work in a heterogeneous class. The perfect mix of talents and interests are basically a manifestation that students have different readiness level.
Thus, a do away with a rigid curriculum and embrace a student-centered approach to teaching. This is a strong demonstration that I am addressing the differing degrees of learner readiness.
Readiness is not the same as ability or intelligence. Readiness is where a student is in relation to a certain idea or skill at a certain time.
Consequently, I always think about how ready my students are and I ask, “How ready is this student for this lesson today?”
How should I know my entry point?
I design learning tasks of varying complexity to give my students choices. I just make sure that my students are working towards the mastery and achievement of the same learning goals.
I conduct pre-assessment or pre-test, for example, to check my students’ prior knowledge and their readiness level. Adjusting the degree of complexity of a learning task so students are given equal opportunity to meet challenges is also a great idea.
4. Varied ways of achieving mastery
How to construct tasks or provide learning choices to students? Are my students achieving mastery using the same learning task?
As per experience, this seldom happens. Often, students need to be exposed to different tasks to achieve mastery.
To achieve mastery, students must gain basic knowledge, practice integrating them, and understand when to use their knowledge.
Moreover, the range of mastery in the classroom can’t just be put aside. In our classroom, we need to discern a wide range of skills and abilities. And addressing them can lead to achieving mastery.
However, it has to be done differently. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. As a teacher, you must adapt your class plan to accommodate various learning styles, students’ diverse backgrounds, and other considerations.
Differing instruction is a reassuring strategy to help students achieve mastery. Our individualized approach to learning can help address unique learning needs in our classroom.
If we really want to help our students develop lifelong skills, then we should do our best to help them achieve mastery through differentiated instruction.
5. Varied levels of engagement
Differentiation is an effective method for creating equality in the classroom. It takes into account not only diverse learning styles but also student backgrounds and varying levels of engagement.
This we need to explore varied instructional strategies to increase the engagement level of all our students. Hence, we adopt differentiation.
To cover a wide range of skills and abilities in our classroom, we need to consider several differentiation strategies to see what works for our students. However, some of our students aren’t even engaged in learning. Some don’t appreciate the learning activities because they don’t believe in their relevance to their abilities. Thus, they aren’t motivated.
Meeting the needs of our students is intensifying its relevance to their skills. This requires differentiation for students to maximize their learning growth.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, an educator, points out, “Differentiation is a proactively planned approach to what students need to learn, how they will learn it, and/or how they can express what they have learned.
Thus, this calls us to differentiate instruction to assist students and to increase their engagement to improve their performance, especially those who are falling behind.
Differentiating instruction is making sure that education is inclusive for diverse students. It’s about giving students maximum accessibility to learning.
All in all, differentiated instruction is an approach to education that caters to the unique learning demands of each student, rather than employing a single method for all students.
Therefore, the reasons mentioned given above are the best tap to help us utilize differentiation to accommodate visual, auditory, and linguistic learners, outstanding children, and students with moderate disabilities while recognizing the distinctive cultural views of historically oppressed students.