Differentiation is a response to the fact that all
students are different in a vast number of
ways, some of which we can’t even detect
Even in classrooms which have been ‘set’ or
‘streamed’ there can be massive variances in
ability, motivation, skills and social awareness
Differentiation is at the heart of twenty-first
century teaching’s key principle:
that all children are worth educating,
simply the ways that we adapt
our classrooms, in a hundred
different ways big and small, to
ensure that all of the people
within it are catered for
‘Differentiation is….. the process of identifying, with
each learner, the most effective strategies for
achieving agreed targets’. (Weston 1992)
‘Differentiation is the process whereby teachers
meet the need for progress through the curriculum
by selecting appropriate teaching methods to
match the individual student’s learning strategies,
within a group situation’. (Visser 1993)
‘Differentiation should be seen as integral to
learning, not an add-on for those situations when
things do not go as well as planned and problems
occur. Differentiation is not about troubleshooting.
It is a concept that has to be seen in an inclusive
way, applying to everyone’.
I don’t do any differentiation
NOT TRUE – We all differentiate in every lesson
Differentiation is something extra or additional
NOT TRUE – The best differentiation is built into
the classroom, used every lesson and every day
Differentiation is always based on ability
NOT TRUE – There are a much wider range of
factors that we all consider on a daily basis
Children don’t want differentiation in secondary
NOT TRUE – But it has to be managed carefully
Experts on the brain and on
learning now stress that everyone
can learn more, if they are
taught appropriately, whatever
they have previously achieved
SO… Every pupil always in focus –
it is the very motto of our school
We must be clear about why we are differentiating in
lessons. This will guide the way that we differentiate:
To tick a box?
“Differentiation sounds great, but on what basis are
we differentiating? What do we know about this kid
—and how do we know it?” (Daniel T. Willingham)
Carol Ann Tomlinson – in Harvard Education Letter
◦a high-quality curriculum with clear goals,
◦the use of data to monitor and provide feedback on
◦the ability to recognize when something isn’t gelling
and modify it to fit the student
◦the creation of an environment in which students are
supported and challenged
She says, “These are not about differentiation. They are
about a good classroom. That is good teaching.”
"Different people have different learning styles - some
like working with books, others prefer videos, others
practical work and so on. We have to cater to them all.
So now I am told by self-styled ‘experts' that my lesson
plans must show ‘differentiation'. The implication being,
of course, that all of my previous approaches were
entirely inadequate. Differentiation is the latest buzzword
to have infested education. Apparently I must use a
variety of methods at every turn and I must present
every topic and idea through a variety of methods and
approaches. Nowhere in this obvious argument is
consideration ever given to the nature of the material I
Colin Everest – ‘The Guardian’
◦ Learning styles has become an influential and widely
accepted idea in education.
◦ Researchers, however, are raising doubts about using
these perceived differences to shape classroom
◦ There is little agreement on what learning styles
actually means, according to British researcher Frank
Coffield, who studied 13 instruments for determining
learning styles with three other colleagues in 2004.
◦ While some researchers think of learning styles as
fixed and stable qualities, Coffield says, others argue
that they are context specific, shaped by previous
learning experiences, and changing from task to task.
Are learning styles of continued use to teachers?
1.Read the article ‘Be all things to all
pupils’ and ‘Let’s all differentiate’ – staff
docs, departments, l+t.
2.Make a reflective list of differentiation
strategies you know of and/or have
tried, and whether they worked.
3.Watch some videos on http://
. American, but don’t hold that against
The Spectrum of Teaching Styles developed by Mosston (1996) are
Style A Command: Teacher makes all decisions.
Style B Practice: Pupils carry out teacher-prescribed tasks.
Style C Reciprocal: Pupils work in pairs: one performs, the other
Style D Self-check: Pupils assess their own performance against
Style E Inclusion: Teacher planned and pupils monitor their own work.
Style F Guided Discovery: Pupils solve teacher set problems with
Style G Divergent: Pupils solve problems without assistance from the
Style H Individual: Teacher determines content. Pupil plans the
Style I Learner Initiated: Pupil plans own programme. Teacher is
Style J Self Teaching: Pupil takes full responsibility for the learning
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