Blended Learning: Best of Both Worlds.
A Teacher’s Guide to Doing It All Better with Online Discussions!
Chapter 11: Effectively Differentiate Instruction with Online Discussions
Differentiation is a “hot topic” in education. Differentiated instruction “is the practice of modifying and adapting instruction, materials, content, student projects and products, and assessment to meet the learning needs of individual students.” As class sizes grow exponentially, teachers face the daunting task of teaching all levels of student in a single class. Teachers must stimulate and engage intellectually gifted students, while simultaneously scaffolding curriculum to support lower level learners. This delicate balance is what many argue separates the best teachers from the herd.
Differentiated instruction involves assessing student knowledge in a given content area, then using a variety of strategies to effectively create curriculum that is, in effect, individualized. Designing curriculum of varied complexity, using a variety grouping strategies, modifying outcomes and product expectations, tailoring delivery, and providing tiered projects are all critical elements in differentiating instruction.
Differentiated instruction excites the brilliant student to uncover deeper layers of learning, while simultaneously structuring curriculum to support lower level students or students with learning disabilities- both identified and unidentified.
I read an interesting blog post titled “21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020” written by Shelley Blake-Plock which argued that “The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work” (Blake-Plock). Blake-Plock makes a valid argument that differentiation is a necessary skill that effective teachers need to teach individual students. The role technology will play in making this individualize curriculum manageable for teachers is exciting but will require that teachers, especially those in credential school, learn how to effectively use technology available to them.
There are four different ways that teachers can use technology to differentiate instruction. This chapter will further explore:
- grouping strategies
- varied level questions for student choice
- layering questions
- incorporating media to allow students to support repeated exposure to content.
Pairing students to allow for peer teaching is another method of reinforcing the strong student’s understanding of material while providing a struggling student with a peer instructor. This reciprocal learning style is another way for teachers to utilize the strengths in their classrooms to create this differentiated instruction.
Just as consumers know that a one-size-fits-all won’t work when buying a pair of jeans, educators know that one standard approach to teaching will not meet the needs off all- or even most- students. Without an attempt to vary instruction to meet the individual needs of each student, the curriculum is bound to bore some and baffle others. Differentiating instruction is the key to reaching all students…
Chapter explores different strategies for using online discussions to differentiate instruction with multidisciplinary examples.
As always I welcome feedback!