Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Differentiation: Closing the Gap between Frustration and Success

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Differentiation: Closing the Gap between Frustration and Success

Article excerpt

As middle school teachers, we are well aware of the many ways in which our student populations vary. From physical appearances and stages of development to prior experiences and ethnicities, students' compositions highlight the importance of getting to know our students in order to create learning experiences that reflect their needs and interests. Student populations are diverse yet young adolescents also have similarities. One commonality among students is their desire to learn. You may question me or even disagree yet one significant responsibility of teachers is to unlock that desire and encourage its development.

In order to uphold this responsibility, teachers investigate and analyze students' written work, verbal responses, and participation in classroom life. Teachers often witness students who struggle and become frustrated during the learning process yet, frustration is a part of cognitive development. There are many sources that cause frustrations, and one source may be the teacher.

Unfortunately, many teachers view students as a data set. We need to become experts at turning that data set into a learning plan for success for each student. Where do we make the time to help all students based on their needs? How do we transform perspectives and mindsets to embrace frustration? Differentiating learning experiences is one way toward aligning instruction with students' needs and interests.

What is differentiation and how can I make it work in my classroom? In order to address differentiation in the classroom Hall, Strangman, and Meyer (2004) state, "The model of differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in their approach to teaching and adjust the curriculum and presentation of information to learners rather than expecting students to modify themselves for the curriculum." The key word is flexible. Education is an ever-changing area in our society. Classrooms of today are vastly different from those of 10 years ago; we can only imagine the world in which we will live in 10 years. For many, these continual changes are overwhelming. Our students need to develop skills not just to survive in the world, they need the skills necessary to THRIVE!

As teachers, we need to evolve as our students evolve. There is no magic lesson that will work the same way, year after year, using the same resources. That filing cabinet that holds the same lessons, PowerPoints, organizers need to be revolving doors that is constantly modified and adjusted to reflect the diverse needs and interests your students. The way a learning experience is facilitated in one class, may need to be modified for another. Knowing when and how to modify experiences requires flexibility and knowing your students.

Teachers want to support students as they develop the ability to think, create, innovate, reflect, and contribute to the world around them. Providing them with opportunities to develop such skills and dispositions is essential. Meeting each learner on their level through differentiation provides teachers with a way to accomplish this. Let's put it in terms of going on an adventure:

1.Examine the destination

Before you begin a trip, you determine your end point. This is also true for teaching and learning in that we need to envision what we want students to be able to know, do, and be as a result of learning experiences. …

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