Why do we want to put students at different levels? How do we ensure we cater to all levels of students?
We need to recognise how different children are at different learning levels. Therefore, we need to differentiate our teaching according to how students learn because we have high expectations from students. Everybody is different and unique. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses which are a combination of our genes, our upbringing, environment, our choices and our efforts.
Differentiation is a term given to this idea of recognising differences in the classroom. As teachers, if we understand this and use it in our classrooms, our teaching becomes more effective and often easier!
Why do we need to recognise these differences? Why do we want to put students at different levels?
This is because we have high expectations from ALL our students and therefore a “one size fits all” approach will not work with all of them. When we use the same approach with all students, we only cater to certain levels of students.
Some children are left behind, some are left bored. We want to look out for ALL our students and support what they are good at, even if they are the academically “weaker ones”.
No two learners are the same
As discussed, our students have mixed abilities and different preferences. They also have varied interests, learning levels, abilities and attention spans. There is a need to accept and plan for that variety in our classrooms.
Differentiation increases participation and involvement
If done properly, differentiation leads to participation from all learners in the classroom because the activities cater to their needs. For this, we also need to know how our learners participate more. Changing how they interact is very important for participation. Learners tend to share more in pairs and groups.
Real differentiation takes into account where students are at a particular point in time. It doesn’t label kids as “low,” “average,” and “advanced” forever. Rather, it groups students based on their current understanding of the content and processes involved in a particular learning activity and then provides each student with the targeted support they need to successfully master that activity.