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Differentiation is Key for Great Schools!

Differentiation is Key


Differentiation is key to setting and achieving effective academic goals. It is impossible to just teach on thing, one way and expect every child in that class to learn effectively. Students come to class with differing background knowledge and different skill levels and they learn in a different way and at different speeds.


“The concept of differentiation moves teachers away from the ‘one sizes fits all’ approach” – Greg Parry


A world leader in the field is Carol Ann Tomlinson and she points out that teachers can differentiate at least 4 classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or their learning profile:
• Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information.
• Process – what are the learning activities that help the child make sense of, or, master the content.
• Products – tasks and projects that asks the student to rehearse apply and extend what her to she has learned in the classroom.
• Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.


“We have to understand our learners” – Greg Parry


Rates of Learning
Can you imagine giving all children just 30 minutes to learn how to juggle? Obviously some children will have achieved a lot more than others. Learning literacy and numeracy can be exactly the same.


Sometimes we need to take longer and we might have to learn in different ways. Some students will be satisfied with learning the ‘basics’ whilst other may want to pursue further by going over and above.


“Children progress through material at different speeds, according to their own learning needs and abilities. For example, a student might take longer to progress through a specific topic, skip topics that cover information already known, or repeat topics on which they need more help” – Greg Parry



Learning Styles


Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, is renowned for his identification of 7 distinct learning intelligences. This theory has emerged from recent cognitive research and “documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and
understand in different ways,” according to Gardner. According to this theory,


“We are all able to know the world through language, logical mathematical analysis, spacial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so called profile of intelligences – and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.” – Howard Gardner


Royal International College embraces the multiple intelligences to ensure the needs of all its students are being met and their potential to learn is accelerated. We do not believe that each child has only one learning style to be catered for as this is a simplistic understanding of different learning styles.


How Else Can Students be Different?


• Language proficiency
• Background experiences and knowledge
• Motivation
• Social and emotional development
• Levels of ability to think in abstract ways
• Physical needs



“Differentiation is a way of teaching and it’s a school culture. It is not a program or package of worksheets. It asks teachers to know their students well so they can provide each one with experiences and tasks that will improve learning. It also provides students will the opportunity to own their own learning.” – Greg Parry


What Does Differentiation in Educational Programs Look Like?


Student differences are studied as a basis of planning. Teachers truly understand the nature of their children then plan accordingly.
• Student differences shape curriculum as well as learning strategies. Textbooks alone cannot do that. They provide a foundation but not the complete learning pathway.
• Pre-assessment is typical. We check what students already know before we start teaching.
• Multiple learning materials are available. We use textbooks as well as technology and may other sources of information.
• Multiple options and learning pathways for students are offered. There is often more than one way to achieve deep and applied understanding.
• Students make sense of information in relevant ways rather than just memorisation and then recall. Emphasis on concepts and connections is made. Students understand in context.
• There is variable pacing. Students can move faster slower depending on their progress at anytime. Students aid in setting goals and standards. They have some control over the learning process.
• Excellence as an individual effort is honoured. We care about “distance travelled”, not just the number of students who achieve an A result. We care about progress from a B to and A just as much as a C to a B”

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