How is differentiated instruction going to help my students when they sit down to write a standardized test?
Dear Miss Examsrule,
This is a question that many teachers find themselves wrestling with, and I think it is best answered by an old Chinese proverb:
“Tell me, I’ll forget.
Show me, I’ll remember.
Involve me, I’ll understand.”
Differentiated instruction requires that we plan learning activities that cater to the needs of all of our learners, and Universal Design for Learning guides us in designing tasks that allow all of our students to actively engage in learning. These two elements both place our students at the forefront of our decision-making and look to provide students with learning experiences that are meaningful for them. When we design lessons, we do so keeping in mind the types of learners we have and the strengths they bring to our learning community.
Returning to the proverb above, we know that hearing and listening are not our strongest senses, but visual stimuli is one of the most powerful for learning. When we consider a learning activity that requires us to use multiple senses, when we are involved, the experiences we have and memories we develop will strengthen our understanding. As teachers then, we look for as many opportunities to ‘involve’ our students in their learning as we can; seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, smelling, etc. It is these experiences which allow for deeper understanding and application of content.
For example, if students are learning about hormones of the body, there are many ways they could learn the material. If I am considering what might be asked on the standardized test relating to this content, I will focus very carefully on vocabulary and factual items related to the concept. However, if I am truly interested in having my students understand the concepts, rather than know the content, I will want them to experience it! I will likely teach the essential front-matter, and then I might have them conduct research to:
- write a RAFT, from the perspective of a hormone to it’s target organ
- write a resume for a hormone
- role play a day in the life of a hormone
- create an interview between a hormone-replacement therapist and one of their clients
Through these tasks, I am hopeful that my students are questioning the content, communicating their thoughts to others, and taking themselves beyond the factual points into the more global ideas around the concept. When faced with a knowledge-level question, my students would now have a context to relate their understanding to that they can apply to reasoning through the A, B, C, D choices. In addition, there are choices in how they wish to explore the content to show me what they are learning. There are opportunities for individual or partner work, high-tech or low-tech activities, creativity, communication, collaboration, artwork and movement within the options.
I do not want students who have memorized every factual point in my course, I want students who can problem solve, think critically and innovatively and challenge themselves and others around them. I want to light a flame for learning, and help them learn to use their strengths most effectively. Jennifer Katz posed a question, along the lines of, “How often in your daily lives are you assessed using a multiple choice exam? You’re not, you are measured according to your performance in your role.” Whatever role my students have when they leave my classroom, I hope they are able to do so as creative innovators and strong communicators, and so, I will plan my learning activities accordingly.
5 Senses Image taken from: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/07/humans-have-a-lot-more-than-five-senses/ Colleen Toews
This blog and resources website has been developed through the work of various AISI coaches in PHRD. The lead collaborative teachers for the 2015/2016 school year, Cheryl Frose, Christine Quong and Tammy Tkachuk will continue to update this site. If you have resources you would like to share or would like to contribute to the blog, please contact us.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.