STRATEGIZING TEACHING: DIFFERENTIATED TEACHING STYLES AND LEARNING BRAIN
Dr. Ahmed Sebihi
“Differentiated instruction has the potential to create learning environments that maximize learning and the potential for success for ALL students— regardless of skill level or background.”
– McQuarrie, McRae and Stack-Cutler, in Differentiated Instruction: Provincial Research Review (2005
Differentiated teaching is an approach that enables teachers to plan strategies through which they can meet the needs of every student. It is based on the philosophy that there is variability among any group of learners and that teachers should adjust teaching according to those differences among the learning brains (students) (Tomlinson, 1999, 2001, 2003). It is the teacher’s response to the diverse learning needs of his or her students.
In other words, Differentiated teaching is a philosophy and an approach to teaching in which teachers and school communities actively work to support the learning of all learnig brains(students) via strategic assessment, thoughtful planning and targeted, flexible teaching. According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, differentiated teaching means ‘shaking up’ what goes on in the classroom in such a way that learning brains have myriad opportunities for taking in information, making sense of ideas and expressing what they learn.
Differentiated teaching has been a trendy word in k-12(primary and secondary) education for the past three decades but has only recently gained ground in adult basic education (BSE). The cornerstone of differentiated teaching is active planning: the teacher plans teaching strategy to meet learners’ varied demands and to offer multiple avenues through which the target learning brains can access, understand, and apply learning. In differentiated teaching, lessons are expected to be responsive to the needs of each learner; teachers must take into cognizance not only what they are teaching (content), but also whom they are teaching (individual learning brains). They need to know the varying readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles of each of their students and then design learning options capable of fitting into these three factors.
Evidence shows that learning brains are more successful in school and are more engaged if they are taught in ways that are responsive to their readiness levels (Vygotsky, 1986), their interests (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), and their learning profiles (Sternberg et al., 1998). According to Tomlinson (2001, 2003), in adopting differentiated teaching, teachers try to address these three characteristics for each student.
KEYWORDS: Readiness, teaching, teachers, knowledge, Learning, students, Interest