Recall this graphic from the Leadership Learning Team sessions from last year? (you may want to click on the link as the graphic is small!)
The graphic is called The Complexity of Instruction and can be found in the Edugains site. Consider the components illustrated in the graphic; each of which are important to responsive instruction.
- Learning Environment (the Third Teacher Monograph!)
- Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Knowledge of the learner, curriculum and program within and across subject disciplines)
- Assessment and Evaluation (Assessment Framework, Evaluation based upon observations, conversations and products)
- Design for Learning (universal design for learning and understanding how learning happens)
- Instructional Strategies (engaging, strategic, based on where the learners need to go)
- Inquiry Stance (Evidence-informed thinking about the current state, the ideal state, how to bridge the gap, and how to gauge progress along the way; and seeking feedback on impact of teaching to inform next steps)
- Differentiated Response (know and respond to the learner’s needs)
What is important for us to recognize, as a district, is that each of these components have been the focus for our learning over the past number of years. This graphic allows us to see/reminds us how these pieces are connected; which in turn helps us to see that we are all working on the same overall goal. It does sometimes feel as though we have many different foci – seeing how the pieces are connected is vital to our individual and collective efficacy.
Much interest was generated last week about Differentiated Instruction so I began to review the many materials that are contained on the Edugains website. Below is the definition which we likely all know.
However, it is the HOW of differentiated instruction that many asked about/talked about last week – there is a feeling that we know what it is, but the actual practice is the area where we are at different stages of implementation and where we have questions.
So what does differentiation look like and sound like in a responsive classroom? There are four key features of DI (again, noting the alignment between the “Things to Consider” for Responsive Instruction as one of our Conditions for Learning)
– Choices are a response to ongoing assessment. Note that this isn’t just in summative assessment – choice is embedded throughout the teaching and learning/assessment for learning cycle.
– Choices are carefully constructed so that they all address the same curriculum expectations, take about the same amount of time and require all students to work at their current level of readiness.
– Students are taught to make good choices based on their strengths and needs.
– It is far more important to offer a few high-quality choices than to provide lots of choices. Offering too many choices is time consuming for the teacher and may overwhelm/confuse students.
2. Respectful Tasks
– All students work on the same curriculum expectations, skills and learning goals with varying degrees of support. – Tasks for all groups are interesting and engaging.
– Tasks are respectful when struggling students are engaged in learning opportunities that are just as interesting and appealing as those of other students.
- Flexible Groupings
– Students have a chance to work with various groups; sometimes by interest, sometimes by readiness and sometimes by learning preferences.
– DI does not mean “ability grouping” which can lead to stigma. For example a student may be in a low readiness group because they have little prior knowledge about a topic – not because they have limited ability. Some participants, although gifted in many areas, could be in a low readiness groups for downhill skiing.
- Shared Responsibility for Learning
– Students who know how they learn best and how they are progressing towards a learning goal are prepared to take more responsibility for their learning
– Students are active in self-assessment, goal setting and co constructing criteria for assessment and evaluation. – Students learn how to make good choices that will help them learn and demonstrate their learning best
We know that Ricci (2013) in Mindsets in the Classroom provides us with a Teacher Checklist for Planning Differentiated, Responsive Instruction that includes the following (note that for clarification on some of the terms that she uses, please see chapter 3 of her book):
- Determine skills, content, concepts, or procedures being assessed and develop or use school/district preassessments.
- Develop anchor activities related to the unit.
- Present preview (2-5 minutes) to activate background knowledge prior to preassessment.
- Students take preassessment.
- Analyze preassessments: determine areas already mastered, any gaps that may exist, and areas of need for each student.
- Identify students who would benefit from curriculum compacting and plan instruction for the areas of need.
- Identify any students who have complete understanding and are ready for another learning outcome. Plan for enrichment and topic/content acceleration for these students.
- Form instructional groups –model anchor activity expectations if necessary and share the group rotation for the day. Teacher will instruct each group every day. Plan for a few minutes between groups to respond to any questions from students, make sure everyone is on the right track, and praise effort students are putting forth.
- Administer formative assessment daily. Use the information to inform instruction for students as well reflection for the teacher. If understanding is not evident with most students, reteach in a new way. Student movement among groups may occur based upon the formative assessments.
- Summative assessments, performance tasks, and products (as well as homework) must be differentiated based on the instruction for each group.
Mary Cay Ricci (2013) Mindsets in the Classroom, pg 54
Remember this resource (on Edugains as well as in all of our schools)…which contains many examples, tools and resources to support DI…
Now consider the School Effectiveness Framework Components – especially #4 Curriculum, Teaching and Learning. Indicator 4.5 Instruction and assessment are differentiated in response to student strengths, needs and prior learning.
How are we using these tools to inform the conversations that occur as part of our School Learning Plan processes around responsive instruction?
Can these resources be used as a guide for us in engaging in our self-assessment conversations of responsive, differentiated instruction?
How can we return to some of these resources to help us to make even deeper connections between our work (and the many terms and jargon that may cause deep meaning to be compromised), and to continue to become increasingly responsive through differentiated instruction?
This is a complex piece however I know that it is critical to ensuring that everyone sees the alignment and connection between all of the components of our work. I am looking forward to your responses…especially those who we haven’t heard from in a while! Take a risk!
Until next week…