Creating Inclusive Classrooms through Differentiated Teaching
Imagine a classroom full of painters, players, scientists, singers, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs. Though our students seem alike when sitting together in a class, they possess talents and intellects as diverse as all these professionals. Hence, assuming that there can be a universal teaching method, and expecting them to learn in identical ways, is a fallacy.
The Need for Differentiated Teaching:
The new age education is characterized by multiple intelligence classrooms, ongoing and formative assessments, inquiry-led learning where the focus is on the learner, and contextual teaching-learning that touches upon real-life situations. There is hence, a crucial need for Differentiation in learning, even in remote classes and blended learning modes. Differentiation has the following aims:
- Adapt the teaching methods for various learning styles
- Address children with different interest areas
- Bridge gap in children with varying readiness levels and prior education experience
- Provide appropriate motivators by judging the hot buttons
- Instil confidence with positive reinforcement
Approaches for Differentiated Teaching-Learning in Hybrid Classes
Facilitators can play a significant role in dealing with the issue of differentiation in online classes. They can invite students to talk about different topics, apart from the lesson being taught. Creating peer groups, having reading buddies, and interacting through characters in classes is also a way of engaging students.
The environment must be made supportive as well as challenging so that students are spurred to be innovative and perform to the best of their abilities. The methods used to adopt differentiation in the classroom are categorized based on their application. There are four ways in which instruction can be differentiated:
1. Content-Based: Modify the Content for Instruction
The format of content can be personalized to support learning styles. Animated lessons, textured books, and audio chapters are some of the formats that are used to cater to diverse learners at the content distribution level. Lessons are often imparted through pictorial means to explain topics.
Concept Cartoons is one such technique that is used across subjects and grades for customised learning. Children with different learning capacities can use concept cartoons that are tweaked to suit their level. Other methods commonly used are flash cards, word puzzles, brain teasers, etc.
2. Process-Based: Adjust the Pace and Method of learning
The process for transfer of knowledge can be adjusted depending upon the pace of learning of student groups. Giving extra time to students to understand concepts and complete projects is sometimes necessary. Recapitulations at frequent intervals are also effective for boosting retention and understanding. Active learners, on the other hand, are engaged through some challenging activities. The timeline for finishing each section of the curriculum has to be kept flexible.
Within the process of learning also, students with auditory, kinaesthetic, visual, and verbal learning styles will need an approach that suits them. Teachers can ask some children to read and explain, and others to enact or draw what they have learned. Diverse expressive methods are evaluated in a standardized way to support differentiated learning. Children may express through graphic organisers, geo maps, digital storyboards or e-books.
3. Product-Based: Interactive Assessment of Learning
Assessment can be done using personalized means. Several tools are available which work across devices and can be effectively used for differentiated learning. The most widely used methods for online learning platforms are game or simulation-based assessments. There can be a wide range of quizzes or challenges with a set goal. All these products can be adopted for differentiation by adjusting the goal of activities or difficulty level of quizzes.
Other methods to gauge learning outcomes can be writing an essay or creating a photo-book project. Facilitators can guide to create digital diaries, where students upload images, or photo books, created by weaving stories around given images. Response cards and content cubes are effectively used where children can select different ways to participate and respond.
4. Environment-Based: Customise the learning environment
The feel and functioning of the classrooms can be adapted to suit the learners. This is highly impactful in the scenario of physical classes, where students can choose a preferred setting. A ‘silent corner’ can be created for reflection and notes. Another corner of the classroom can be for group discussions. Some children may like to doodle on a whiteboard for better understanding.
Even in the virtual classes, students can be given a dedicated space through Breakout Rooms, where they discuss a topic or a situation and suggest solutions. Moreover, digital boards, similar to whiteboards, can be used to express thoughts and ask questions. Our facilitators interact personally with small groups of students to understand queries and develop ideas.
It is crucial to understand that differentiated learning is not about creating boundaries but about enhancing inclusiveness. Through these alternate ways of teaching-learning, students who have varied grasping power and attention spans can arrive at a level playing field.
With the pandemic throwing a new set of challenges in the way of students, their stress levels are higher, and attention span is lower. These factors have moulded our teaching-learning over the past year, enhancing focus on the needs of students. The future of education demands that we enable all learners through personalized lessons and processes, and we at Shiv Nadar School are ready to embrace the change.
Oct 18, 2021 by Shiv Nadar School