Time to Differentiate

Over the last few weeks, I have had the privilege of observing several schools as they prepare for a new crop of students and the 2009-2010 year.    Each of these schools has its own educational philosophy, running the gamut from extremely traditional to highly progressive.  However, regardless the philosophy, teachers from all of these schools find themselves grappling with the age-old question of “How do I teach each student when each student is so very different.”   In response, I have found myself thinking a lot about differentiation and the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson.

I first encountered the work of Dr. Tomlinson when I was a fairly new teacher in a public school classroom in New Jersey.  Students in my classroom were as different as the snowflakes that would fall every winter–a unique combination of skills, knowledge, strengths, talents and weaknesses.   As a public school teacher, I did not have a low student to teacher ratio and needed to teach all 25+ students at the same time.  Dr. Tomlinson’s philosophy of differentiated instruction was shared with me at the perfect time.

At the crux of her work is the idea that we as teachers have the responsibility to know our students very, very well.  We must inventory prior knowledge and skills before we teach.  We must create an environment that challenges every student in the best way for learning and that is flexible.  We must acknowledge that our “strongest” students may have areas of weakness or deficit and that students who need the most help may have areas of incredibly rich knowledge and ability.   We are required as educators to constantly develop lessons and experiences that meet the needs of all students.  Teachers have the choice whether to be daunted by this or whether to be stimulated by the exciting intellectual puzzle that differentiated instruction can be.

For the fall of 2009, we at Edstrom Educational Consulting are committed to helping teachers discover how rewarding and exciting it can be to differentiate instruction in their classrooms.   We have developed a wonderful instructional seminar that will show teachers how to apply the theories of Dr. Tomlinson to their own instruction.   In workshop format, we will tackle the individual needs of each teacher (as is only appropriate in a seminar on differentiated instruction) and help develop model differentiated lesson plans that can be implemented the following day in school.   We will bring these seminars to schools for private instruction and will also provide some open seminar dates throughout the year in order to meet the needs of all teachers.

Update:  Met Life recently came out with a survey that hits upon why educators need to learn more about differentiated instruction!  Check it out here!

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One Response to “Time to Differentiate”

  1. Mark Pennington
    6:47 pm on October 16th, 2009

    What prevents teachers from differentiating instruction? Check out the real reasons at http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/10-reasons-why-teachers-resist-differentiated-instruction/

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