ERIC Number: ED497093
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Aug
Differentiating Instruction: Why Bother?
Tomlinson, Carol Ann
National Middle School Association (NJ1), Middle Ground v9 n1 p12-14 Aug 2005
In her more than 30 years of teaching, the author has practiced differentiation in her own classroom at all educational levels. Although she is well familiar with the vocabulary, research and reasoning behind it, the most compelling answer she can give for why differentiation matters in the middle grades comes from her personal experience as an adolescent with a typically fragile sense of self. She describes the teaching techniques of two teachers she experienced in middle school. The first was a math teacher who taught with a one-size-fits-all approach to math, who seemed to prove to her daily as an insecure adolescent that she was a loser. Her uncertainty about her own abilities grew in direct proportion to the math fog that collected around her day by day as this teacher explained the lesson one time, one way. Her English teacher on the other hand, worked hard to know the class as individual students, and to make the class work for each student. Although this much more student focused approach which personalized English class and planted the seed for a possible future was not called "differentiation" in those days, it could have been. Differentiation simply suggests that teachers provide clear learning goals that are rich in meaning and provide various avenues and support systems to maximize the chance of each student succeeding. The author draws upon her own teaching experience and offers simple strategies that can be used to help students develop a sense of competence, and encounter self-efficacy, as they learn to experience and surmount personal challenges. She challenges teachers to approach subject matter in a way that makes students feel valued and supported and points out that the alternative is not only lower achievement, but alienation of students from learning altogether. The article concludes by saying that there is no single formula for differentiation. It begins with a teacher who takes an honest look at a class and accepts responsibility for the success of each student. If they're all going to learn, the teacher needs to find more than one route to success.
Descriptors: Teaching Methods, Grade 7, Self Efficacy, English Teachers, Individualized Instruction, Middle School Students, Middle School Teachers, Adolescents, Personal Narratives, Mathematics Instruction, English Instruction
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Middle Schools
Authoring Institution: N/A