Differentiated instruction – Redefining teaching and learning

As a parent of a 3-year old son who is an articulate communicator and natural inquirer, I am currently facing a dilemma. If I put on my educationist lenses to view the issue, the dilemma assumes very serious proportions.

My son, who will turn three in a fortnight, goes to a preschool where kids are organised by age grouping with March 31 (DoB) as the date cut-off for determining the age grouping – a logic that pervades enrolment procedure for subsequent grades as well. Since he was under the age of 3 on the cut-off date, technically he will continue to be in the 2-3 years grouping even after June (when he becomes over 3 years of age). There is a huge developmental gap between a 2 year old and a 3 year old. 

It is not that this problem has just dawned on me; it was a concern I had expressed at the time of enrolment, but my mind was put at ease by assurances of differentiated learning within the same class. From training and experience, I understand the implications and benefits of differentiated learning so I decided to be patient and see how differently he and similar children in the grade would be taught. But now patience is running out as I haven’t seen much of the differentiated instruction in action during the past 2 months that he has been going to school. 

My dilemma stems from the fact that I do understand the working of schools and the issue of teacher training in differentiated instruction and assessment in schools, but how do I reconcile that as a parent of an ever-eager-to-learn soon-to-be-three-year-old.   

As I search for sorting the dilemma, I ask myself, using the powerful words of Karen Morrow Durica

Is it truly easier for all to sit and learn?

Should 8-years old all share the same ability and concern?

Does everyone learn better when there is silence in the room?

Do 50-min periods give all the time to bloom?

Is the only way to learn about geometry from a book?

Are having 5 neat paragraphs how each essay should look?

Does every brain work at its best at 7:45 am?

Do practice tests for seven weeks make everyone thrive?

Does every learner need a break at exactly the same time?

Are projects better if each one must have the same design?

Does only certain literature make someone a better reader?

Do only sports, or math, or speech make someone a leader?

Can everyone show what is known by way of written tests?

Does giving “points” inspire everyone to do their best?

Does compliance to school rules define a better student?

Is it possible the misfits are as able, bright and prudent?

Appears if we look closely at the structures we embrace-

Creating hardship for some students, making school a hampered place:

We’d understand that many problems seem to be our fault-

How we do school is often for the convenience of the adults.

If teaching were as simple as using the one best way to teach everyone, “one size fits all” kind of approach,  it would be considered more of a science. However, there isn’t just one best way to teach everyone and that’s why teaching is an art.

1 Comment

  1. Teaching is definitely not an empirical science and I agree that how we run schools is often for the convenience of the adults.

    Throughout my school life, I have struggled with & eventually compromised with a certain sort of static thinking from adults around me. After reading Karen Durica's words quoted here, I have now been able to put that in perspective, one that puts the whole learning system as readily convenient, but definitely not healthy. It has the potential to leave a child less self-assured, confident & groping in dark. The unnecessary benchmarks, comparisons and loss of any special talent, knowingly or unknowingly, cause of banal routine, could be painful too. Needless to say at the end of the day there is an acute sense of loss.

    While we understand and emphasize on wholesome growth & special skill development, it’s important that we let go of convenient approach. The change need not be radical or absolute, but obviously one that helps each child relate more with the learning process, discover herself & find her centre. In that aspect, I do second Differentiated Learning.

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