The first of our after-school ‘Workshops of Wonder’ on Magic Monday 3 was delivered by Susie Crozier from our English department, who shared her ideas about differentiation with us.
As an English teacher Susie felt it was important to start with a definition. Differentiation, after all, is something we do as teachers as a matter of course on a daily basis – but what does it actually mean? The dictionary definitions she found were fairly unhelpful she felt, but for one word:
Delimitation, Susie emphasised, is the point. It’s not just about access but success.
With this in mind, we were given a challenging task to work with in our groups which might be given to students. We then had to think about ways in which we could ensure success for all. It wasn’t about finding ways to change or adapt the task, it was about looking at the support we might put in place to allow everyone to achieve success. The tasks we were given weren’t important (ours was based on Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’) – the point was for us to focus on the strategies that would achieve this.
The strategies we came up with were:
- provide additional sources of support, e.g. text books, access to the internet, or help from other students in the class
- share examples, including “live” examples that are being produced by other students – there and then – using a visualiser, webcam or photographs of work taken during the lesson
- provide frameworks to scaffold support – verbal as well as written
- teacher modelling and deconstruction of the steps/processes required to complete the task
- teacher questioning pitched appropriately to prompt students and get them thinking
- using any data provided: have you checked reading ages? Have you reviewed any SEN guidance that has been provided? Have you viewed the strategies identified in any Pastoral Support Plan provided?
- don’t be afraid to teach those who need more support while the rest of the class work on the task
- don’t dive in too early – struggle is good!
- provide additional support through quality feedback which students act on during D.I.R.T. (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time)
As you can see from our list, none of these strategies involved lots of individualised activities or multiple worksheets and there wasn’t even a hint of a ‘must’…’could’…or ‘should’…outcome in sight. Just one ‘bar’, set high enough so as to challenge the most able of our students, with enough appropriate, tailored support to enable everyone to reach for it…
…or as we now prefer to call it delimitation, not differentiation!