Learning With Lucie Archive 2006-2013

April 20, 2006

Differentiated Instruction

Filed under: Education — Learning with Lucie @ 10:06 pm

This entry was originally posted as a VTCITE blog entry following a discussion on Differentiated Instruction

Even though my teaching experience has been mostly in Business and Tech Ed,  I was constantly seeking partnership with other teachers to bring a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching.  Our Life on the Border project (www.lifeontheborder.com )was an example of many DI strategies.  One hundred students from the Tech Center and 300 students enrolled in French classes researched their Franco American Culture and published their findings on the web.   

Although  all French student was required to interview someone from a  Franco American family and write a short report and produce an artifact about  that families’ culture, the products were varied  from electronic recipe collection, to photo albums, to family trees, to audio and videoclips.   

The content and process by which each student learned the technical skills necessary to work on the web project were not all the same;  some students wrote scripts to process forms, others learned how to compress video and sound, others learned how to create electronic versions of family trees.  Some students worked best exploring manuals and online resources on their own to learn the tech skills; others learned best in pairs or small groups; others needed more structure in the form of direct instruction, which we performed in small groups.  Some instruction was offered  to the whole class, but  each learned different skills as they took on different roles in the project. The roles were interdependent requiring each student to understand how their role integrated with other roles in the project.  Thus, even though your role was database designer, those who did scripting knew they needed to work with you to make the script variable names work with the database field names.  Although each student received DEPTH level knowledge in a few skills, they did get BREADTH level understanding of many different skills.  I think our CREDIT section (especially tech crew) and the JOURNEY section of the web site capture how this happened.   

The learning environment was key to successful differentiation in this case.  It meant a LOT more after school work by (me .. the teacher).  Each student was required to post a daily BLOG entry to outline what they accomplished for the day and what they were planning on working tomorrow.  Each day I reviewed what each student accomplished and posted a blog entry on the class blog before the start of the next class, explaining to students exactly what the other classes had accomplished and how that affected their daily goals.  They were in the habit of reading the blog entry as they staggered into the classroom (many before the bell rang) Since this project was interdisciplinary, each class participating created its own varied and diverse learning environment within the project.  The more advanced students had the basic skills and habits of minds to work more independently and on different parts of the project with less structure and supervision.  But while some students thrive in that type of environment, others get lost and drift.  As an instructor I was always scanning the learning levels and making adjustment relating to grouping and tasks based on my learner’s needs.   

Even though our project was not a WEB Quest per se in the official sense of the word,  it included many of the same strategies.  Each day the students would see their task on a Class Blog.  IN a way it was an WebQuest that unveiled itself each day and was adjusted based on the students own posting the day before in their individual blogs.  The tasks on this ‘interactive’ webquest were similar to the different task categories in the web taskonomy and were assigned not only based on student strengths and prior knowledge, but also based on student interest or need to develop a new skill.  It certainly would not be conducive to increased learning to always give the good designer in the class the Design Tasks.   Differentiating Instructions should not only create tasks that lets a student pursue their interest areas and strength areas, but they should also be design to ensure that students have the scaffolding necessary to STRETCH and develop new skills.  The final result was one unified PRODUCT  filled with different CONTENT where each participant went through a different PROCESS as part of a LEARNING ENVIRONMENT that supported Differentiated Instruction.

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