Is differentiation just a pipe dream?

A hot topic for debate in education revolves around differentiation. As a pre-service teacher nothing sounds more scary and time-consuming than designing my lessons to fit a vast number of needs. However; having a minor in inclusive ed, it’s a task I fully believe in. In today’s classrooms, students’ needs are more diverse and demanding than ever. With inclusion being more and more enforced, teachers often have a large variety of students in their rooms. For example, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have a student with a behavioural disorder, a student with cerebral palsy, 3 English as a Second Language students, and one with ADHD. These are the realities teachers face today… and also why differentiation seems so intimidating.

So what is differentiation?

Differentiation is accommodating your classroom and teaching to fit the needs of every student the best way possible. For example, if a student is blind, a teacher would differentiate by including either braille or auditory text. However, differentiation doesn’t simply happen with the way material is presented (process). Differentiation can take place in the content (material being taught), products (way students show knowledge), and learning environment (type of chairs, posters, etc.). There are those, who argue this amount of change is way too much to expect. As an educator, I am taught to put all of my effort into meeting the needs of students. So this is only true if its easy enough to do? Is wearing a microphone to accommodate a partially deaf student? Would it be too much work to allow a student who has anxiety about tests a few extra minutes to write their exam? I think the problem is people are overwhelmed trying to think of ways to accommodate every problem or necessity a student may need instead of worrying about the needs required in their classroom. Of course it would be stressful to plan a lesson thinking of ways it would for every need possible! That’s because it is impossible… And that’s not what’s expected. What is expected is that teachers differentiate their classroom and lessons to fit the needs of their students.

“Trying is always enough. ” ― Patricia Briggs, Dragon Bones

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5 thoughts on “Is differentiation just a pipe dream?

  1. I’m of the same mind that differentiation is indeed a massive additional burden of work. Some articles are clearly for it, others point to its impossibilities (largely because of the work involved). I hate dealing in absolutes: I think it’s more than possible to attempt differentiation on a reasonable scale without adversely affecting your own capacities as a teacher. Middle ground always exists.

    1. I completely agree. So long as you’ve thought about and made an attempt that’s all that can be expected. It’s when you don’t try that you’re being unfair to your students and not doing your job as an educator.

    1. I know most students have an inclusive ed. instructor or resource teacher and I think they would be the first place to start. If not, I would do some digging online and asking co-workers for more information.

  2. Great post. I think it is important for teachers not to over think differentiation. The most important point is to create a learning environment for “your” classroom. There is no perfect script or formula for this.

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