#2 Differentiation – Steps & Ramps

Gosh, well this one’s going to get me in trouble. And I’ve only just started blogging!

So here goes.

So I used to live in Uganda. A lot of things take time to filter all the way to Africa but the idea of wheelchair access to buildings did. So ramps were built out of wood that go over steps and so provide a straight ramp for wheelchairs to be able to access a building (same building, remember that). And this is my basic premise – access to the same building but the building of a ‘ramp’ for some.

I personally do not believe in differentiation by task. I remember back in the day when the debate was between differentiation by task and differentiation by outcome. I believe differentiation by task caps students’ achievement and so their attainment, and I have still not come up with a satisfactory answer to the question posed by many a student, “why can’t I do the purple/green/expert/(insert school practice) task?”, or for this practice to sit well with my conscience. I really don’t see how ‘growth mindset’ and ‘differentiated tasks’ fit in the same sentence. It’s a bit like ‘democracy’ and ‘three line whip’. I digress.

I also belief all students should be entitled to the same curriculum and it’s indicative content. This is a line of thought I am still developing. May be I’ll write more on curriculum in the future.

So back to my wooden ramp. I have come to the conclusion that ‘support’ to complete the same task is the way forward. In my ideal world I would do away with the word differentiation. Instead ALL tasks (the same tasks) would have support ONLY for those that need it. I am guilty as I suspect many others are of putting the support (sentence starters, key terms to include, etc) up on the Powepoint of the task for all to see. My bad.

May be a better way forward is ‘live support’. Some pre-planning of common misconceptions is wise practice, but I am referring more to live conversations with those who have not grasped the concept we are learning about or who are genuinely struggling. This requires little upfront investment by the teacher, except excellent subject knowledge and knowledge of common misconceptions of the topic being learnt. To be flexible enough and to have the skill to build that ramp live in the lesson so all students can access the same building.

I think I’ve survived and probably still have a teaching career intact 🙂

These thoughts are based on the work of Mary Myatt, from her book The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to coherence.

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