Do you wonder why children find some subjects ‘better’ and some teachers ‘nicer’? Why do some kids write lengthy answers whereas others draw diagrams? Some learn best by listening to music while reading; others prefer silence—why?
Having researched such questions and many more, experts have established—every child has different learning needs. Look inside any classroom; you’ll find pupils hailing from multiple backgrounds, with unique interests.
Multilingual children try to strike a balance between multiple languages and societies. Students with advanced learning skills share the same space with those struggling with certain subjects. Enthusiastic travellers having a vast experience are friends with peers whose exposure is circumscribed within their neighbourhood.
These kids deserve to learn in a way they can understand, organise and memorise information by overcoming their weaknesses and making the most of their strengths. They expect to find teachers who accept and assist them on the path of self-learning. These expectations shatter when little ones get educators who treat Maths as Geography or believe that all learners are alike.
All these years, educators have tried their best to fulfil individual learning requirements. They plan activities, create learning materials, and use a plethora of tools to make lessons more interesting. Despite, problems occur when their teaching style doesn’t match with students’ learning profiles, which is why it’s crucial to differentiate instructions given in a class.
Differentiated Learning In Classrooms
Modern-day teachers have begun to apply and expand the principles and practices of differentiation to meet individual needs. The key objective of providing differentiated instruction is optimising ‘pedagogy’ or the delivery of content, i.e., to conduct the same lesson in varied ways to reach out to a large number of pupils.
“Some kids like working in groups whereas others learn individually. Some impulsively explore new phenomenon while others go by standards. Very few children like reading big books, but many of them love gadgets. A majority of children are casual, but the more serious ones aim to get concepts right the first time. The variance of interests is amazing.”
By differentiating classroom instructions, teachers create different opportunities for understanding, processing, constructing and applying concepts. It leads them to personalise learning for everyone. Few examples of application are:
- Tiered lessons for heterogenous groups and creating learning stations for tapping into multiple intelligences
Teachers identify different interests in a heterogeneous group. They deliver tiered lessons (modified on the basis of learning styles) to engage all types of learners—spatial, kinesthetics and verbal. For e.g., in kindergarten, teachers use flashcards, show animations, play musicals and use hand formations for letter recognition.
Students pursue their interests and rotate between different activities at learning stations. For a tiered lesson on rainforests, one group draws a diagram of forest biodiversity and another collects plant samples. Some identify and label the pictures of wild animals and trees in a magazine. Those who write well, create stories and poems while the most vocal ones deliver a persuasive speech on forest conservation.
- Level-wise reading programmes to challenge comprehension
Reading and comprehension may vary by several levels. Once students master a concept, teachers assign various books to readers or customise the same book for varying abilities. Questions, discussions, and assignments follow self-study.
- Adjusting assignments for structured assessment
Assignments contain tasks varying in complexity. Teachers follow Bloom’s Taxonomy to set targets from the basic to the most advanced levels. For instance, in a language class, beginners write the central idea of prose, intermediate-level students debate on characters’ goals, and high-level students enact the story in a different way.
The success criteria for evaluation in each case is broad-ranging and focused on skill development. Educators regularly monitor the strengths and weaknesses of different groups, both formally and informally, to ensure that students are progressing with the completion of tasks.
How Differentiated Learning Builds The Right Foundation?
Today’s children must learn to communicate, collaborate and find solutions—skills developed through emotional and social learning, which are important for thriving in an unforeseen future. Traditional learning falls short of empowering kids with 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, people management, coordination, service orientation, cognitive flexibility, etc.
But as mentioned earlier, every child is different. Therefore, no two children can develop a similar skill set in the same learning space.
Offering differentiated instruction in the starting years of school ensures that pupils follow dendritic learning pathways using different senses (smell, sight, sound, etc.).
With regular exposure and practice, the young brain starts to form connections among different cues before storing it. When kids access these memories triggered by a cue or question, more interconnection and mental work are involved. It ensures they’ve actually understood and learned a concept, instead of parroting it.
An inquiry-based curriculum adds more value to it by leading kids to focus on “how to think” than “what to think,” as it leaves scope for questions and discussions that deliberately engage them to explore further. That’s how, innate curiosity, repeated efforts and self-motivation play a crucial role in wisdom and skill development.
Differentiated learning necessitates structured feedback for both student and teacher, with a focus on deliberately challenging and involving kids in the curriculum. It helps them in organisation, problem-solving, thinking, reasoning, and develops their comprehension and personality. These skills, combined with leadership traits, wisdom, emotional intelligence and social proficiency, will help students evolve as future thought leaders with a clear perception and streamlined approach.
Do you agree that schools must follow a differentiated curriculum to make learning fun? Share your thoughts with us.