There is no "one size fits all" model for education. Not only is each pupil's progress individual to them, but they also develop at different rates. The physical growth of a child is obvious to an observer and at the same time they are developing intellectually, socially, emotionally, morally and spiritually. Every pupil is a unique and complex individual who doesn't make progress in all areas at the same time.
The National Curriculum states:
- Teachers should set high expectations for every pupil. They should plan stretching work for pupils whose attainment is significantly above the expected standard. They have an even greater obligation to plan lessons for pupils who have low levels of prior attainment or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Lessons should be planned to ensure that there are no barriers that prevent every pupil from achieving their potential. In many cases, such planning will mean that these pupils will be able to study the full National Curriculum. A minority of pupils will need access to specialist equipment and different approaches.
- It is essential that teaching is differentiated to cater for the needs of the pupils. The pupils learn in different ways and at different speeds. A lesson must be planned to cater for the learning requirements of all. Every pupil has a right to access the curriculum and to learn, therefore the teacher has to ensure that all lessons are structured to enable all children to achieve success.
Useful strategies for differentiation
There are many ways that a teacher might differentiate to give all children access to learning. They can use a variety of approaches capable of accommodating different abilities and learning preferences. Teachers need to ensure that they provide an opportunity for pupils to learn at their own pace. It is about knowing each pupil's ability and what they are capable of achieving. Here are five strategies for differentiating in the classroom:
- Change the way pupils need to show their learning, for example through artwork, videos, writing, drama, questioning, etc. A pupil can understand a particular skill but may struggle to demonstrate it, so allow the pupil to choose how to show their understanding.
- Ensure your lessons cater for different learning styles. Some may question 'learning styles' but I know personally I like to plan visually using topic webs.
- Provide opportunities for pupils to work collaboratively. Using the skills of a group may be better to show the understanding of a concept
- Use a range of resources to overcome pupil difficulties, for example use writing frames to structure work or write on the computer for pupils who struggle with presentations
- The “must/should/could” formula. This formula uses differentiated outcomes and an element of choice regarding the starting point. This idea recognises that sometimes some of the pupils can only access some of the work, but during the course of a lesson or across a unit of study they will have covered the “must learn” content, skills and concepts.
Differentiation is about teachers having a mindset that every pupil has the ability to achieve as long as barriers to learning are overcome. Differentiation overcomes some of those barriers.
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