Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Differentiation, how practical and possible?

I have been talking to my partner during the course of this year about the "struggles" he is having with his classes. He is an AST (and his teaching skills and understanding are advanced beyond anyone else I have met, but I am biased), and part of those "struggles" is that he has very high standards for himself and his students.

His opinions and concerns are very interesting to me as he tries to mould an unruly bunch of students disinterested in science into a group of students who will engage and think for themselves. In order to to this he has had to use differentiation.

I suppose these days what he does is called personalised learning.

My partner knows all the students in his class very well. He makes it his business to engage with them and find out their interests. He has a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things so is easy to talk about subjects that the students have an interest in and link the science he is teaching to the things that the students can relate to.

Using this knowledge and his experience he is able to tailor the activities that the students in his class carry out to their specific needs. He can do this in such a way that the students don't look to another group and ask "why can't I do the same as him".

How does he do it?

Firstly he doesn't teach GCSE, he teaches key stage 3 and BTEC. Personally I find that these courses allow for a lot more flexibility than GCSE and are therefore more open for personalisation.

At key stage 3 he uses the APP grid to get students to set personalised targets for themselves. They can chose the level they want to work at and the outcomes of the activity are ones that they have set for themselves. He does this through questioning and using the conversations he has to empower his students.

He has also built in projects to his lessons. During the rocks topic he asked the students to produce a presentation about "why are rocks so special?" They could talk about or share on the web, but they couldn't use PowerPoint. The students' work ranged from an essay by one student to posters, to online mindmaps.

He has been using the reporting system within his school to support this. Asking students to demonstrate during his lessons that they are resilient, resourceful, reciprocal and reflective. It is difficult for the student to do that if the lessons are structured to the nth degree.

Within science it is always difficult to take a more personalised approach when the learning involves practical work. However, it is possible when you have a good knowledge of the curriculum, assessment levels and your own students by setting personal targets and better still get students to set their own targets based on something tangible.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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