Differentiated Learning- LEARNING FOR ALL by Tricia Smith
A classroom is like a flower garden wherein exists many types of flowers. Within a classroom, there are diverse learners that includes students with special needs. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers tailor their instructional material to facilitate students’ learning needs so that everyone has an opportunity learn. When lessons are tailored to meet the instructional and learning needs of students, there will be some form of equity wherein everyone can learn, and everyone will learn. I cannot help but relate this to an image that I saw a while back. Here, three individuals are given the same kind of bench to stand on to watch a game over a high fence. Though this depicts equality, there is no equity. This is as a result that each of the three individual is taller than the other. Equity was then displayed when two instead of one bench was given to the smallest spectator which enabled him to see.
HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE LEARNING
To promote equity by tailoring classroom instruction to meet the learning needs of students, teachers can further empower students to become self directed learners by showing differentiation in their instruction using universal design for learning (UDL). To differentiate instruction is to recognize students’ varying levels of background knowledge, readiness to learn, language ability, learning preferences, and interests, and to react responsively (Learning for All, 2013).
Additionally, according to (Learning for All, 2013), while Universal Design for Learning provides the teacher with broad principles for planning, differentiated instruction allows teachers to address specific skills and difficulties. This will then further help to close the achievement gap in a diverse classroom. I cannot help but reflect on another image that I once saw where a fish and a monkey were being assessed on their ability to claim a tree. This image depicts that a “one size does not fit all” in the diverse classroom wherein students are often expected to use the same method specified by the teacher to express their learning.
Additionally, in some cases, like the first imaged that I mentioned earlier, some students have an unfair advantage over others. For example, some are linguistically inclined while others are spatially inclined. As Gardener (1999) multiple intelligence theory stipulates, we all do not learn the same way. Hence, in the classroom, students should be allowed to express their knowledge using their strengths. Therefore, teachers should make learning more accessible for students by creating a students centered classroom where students are able to take ownership of their learning and be able to reflect, revise and access their learning (knowledge ), (What it Takes to Reach all Students, N.D). Using UDL, this requires us to offer multiple means of engaging learners where they have multiple means of representing knowledge and multiple means of expressing knowledge (What it Takes to Reach all Students, N.D). For example, in the fashion lab classroom, we should plan lessons that reflect multiple ways for students to show knowledge as well as multiple media for students to show what they have learnt. This will help to eliminate any barriers that may exist in the lesson. This is where teachers become creative and convert the barriers by offering multiple formats for students to display what they have learnt.