Reader Response 2

30 Jan

The article that I chose to read and dissect around differentiated instruction is entitled “Learning Styles in the Age of Differentiated Instruction” by Timothy J. Landrum & Kimberly A. McDuffie. This reading began by defining the differences between the terms “individualized instruction” and” differentiated instruction.” It was expressed that individualized instruction involves providing teaching techniques to students based on their personal characteristics (ie, disability) rather than academic content. It involves building on the knowledge students already have and focuses a lot on accommodating and modifying materials. In contrast, differentiated instruction was described as focusing on adjusting the content, process, and products based on students’ interests, readiness, and learning profiles. In short, differentiated instruction goes beyond simply providing instruction to students based on their characteristics to include altering academic qualities such as the content, process, and products based on the student’s personal characteristics. In addressing the importance of differentiated instruction, the authors stated that basing instruction on the learning styles of students is not a great idea. Apparently there is little research-based evidence available to validate instruction based on learning style. Instead, the authors promoted the differentiation of content, process, and product; this idea is the one that most stood out to me.

In terms of modifying content, the article stated that an educator should provide learning materials based on the interests of students or provide learning materials at different levels of comprehension. Modifying and differentiating content is something I have learned a lot about through my special education minor classes. Differentiating content for learners functioning at different levels is one of the most talked about and widely used tactics for differentiating instruction. In spite of this, I have yet to effectively implement lesson plans reflecting this sort of differentiation. I believe that in order to provide differentiated content to students, one must first understand the ability levels and interests of students. Up to this point my teaching experiences have not allowed me to understand my students well enough to implement this differentiation but I look forward to implementing this strategy in my pre-internship and internship.

Differentiating the process is described in the text as essentially utilizing varied instructional strategies. My school experience involved predominantly direct instruction and this has certainly shaped how I perceive education. However, my university experience, particularly over the last few years, has certainly been helping me to see beyond the typical direct instruction classroom. The article suggested building activities in the classroom that seek out the differing perspectives of the content being taught, offering different roles to the students in the completion of their assignments, and focusing on cooperative learning strategies. These are all great ideas, and upon reflection I have made a connection between these strategies and strategies promoted in the articles I have read around teaching First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students. The connections I made were found particularly in the idea of providing cooperative learning opportunities and allowing for different perspectives when teaching the content. In this way, differentiating the process truly has the capacity to serve the needs of all students.

Differentiating the various products that can be submitted at the end of learning is another idea that I am quite familiar with. I am naturally a very creative person and I love the idea of giving our students options around what they want their final product to look like. I believe that offering full reign over the design of the final product allows students to self identify their own areas of strength and build upon them. The downside of allowing students to choose the design of their final products on a regular basis is that students may rely too heavily on areas of strength so as to avoid working on areas that could use some practice. Because of this, I believe that product differentiation would need to be approved by the teacher before the production of the product. I believe the educator’s role would also be to encourage students to try and branch out so as to try different styles of learning products.

I found that reading this paper was very informative. I felt as though I was pretty in the know when it came to differentiated instruction, again, because of my special education minor. However, the reading of this article opened my eyes to several ideas that I had definitely not considered. I had never considered that differentiated instruction was a multi-faceted concept but now I am seeing that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. This article has helped me to understand that instruction can be differentiated not only through the content, but also through the learning process presented to students and the product of this learning as well. All of this learning is coming with me on my journey and I am confident that it will help to make me a stronger and more considerate educator as a result. I look forward to employing these strategies in just a few short weeks!

 Reference

Landrum, T. J. & McDuffie, K. A. (2010). Learning styles in the age of differentiated instruction. Exceptionality, 18 (1), 6-17.

Advertisements

One Response to “Reader Response 2”

  1. Emily Mann April 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Having just completed my pre-internship experience I feel that the idea of differentiated instruction has become even more real for me. I was placed in a special education setting (FIAEP) at one of the high schools here in Regina. These FIAEP classrooms really do facilitate learning for a vast range of learners. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of differentiating in this setting was getting to know my learners. Many of the students were very articulate in their speech which resulted in my making assumptions about their capacities. One such student didn’t know their alphabet and therefore had not yet learned how to read. This brings me to one major piece in differentiation; it’s not only about providing them with work at their level or area of interest, but also about making it relevant to them. Why should this student learn how to read? I know why, but do they? These are the big picture ideas that I have been left with after pre-internship and I intend to answer these questions in my internship experience.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: