Valuing the Learner

Lynne M Grigelevich

The University of New England

EDU 610 – Differentiation Theory and Strategies

August 12, 2016

The Goal of Education

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Differentiated Instruction and Assessment consider and address the individuality of our students. A classroom should be a place where every child feels he or she belongs (Tomlinson, 2005).

Learning and Sensory Intake Styles

When we think about how to reach our learners, and understanding that the more they "do something," the more they retain, we have to also consider their Learning or Sensory Intake Styles.

How a student takes in and processes information creates the necessity for us to utilize Differentiated Instruction and Assessment in our classrooms.

The Child as a Whole Being

Not only do the "academic" considerations matter, but the experiences that a child brings to the classroom matter just as much. Life gives our young people sometimes more than they can handle and when we forget that, we become an unwilling obstacle in their path to learning and growing.

When we refer to the individual needs of a child, we refer to the whole child. In this realm lies a vast array of experiences that affect our students and must be considered if we are to truly address each child's needs as learners.

We as educators have witnessed first-hand the effects of childhood trauma, as they manifest in our classroom by way of behavior, attention, and intellectual issues.

We need to better understand the needs of our students.

To value the learner is to support the learner to success.

So when we consider Retention Rates, Learning Styles, Thinking Styles, Sensory Intake Modalities, Multiple Intelligences, ACEs, Socio-Economic Conditions and other influences, we must reach the conclusion that:

Differentiating for Individual Needs is a must if we are to reach the goal of truly educating each child.

"At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means 'shaking up' what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively."

Tomlinson, 2005

Differentiating Content

We can differentiate content by adapting what we teach and modifying how we give access to what we want students to learn 

(Tomlinson, 2005).

Differentiate by Readiness

Differentiate by Interest

Differentiate by Learner Profile

Differentiating by Readiness

Student A may need to focus on the basic terminology of a lesson on dinosaurs, such as names, sizes, and diets.

Student B may be ready to compare and contrast the characteristics of different dinosaurs.

Student C may be prepared to research what environmental causes led to the extinction of dinosaurs. 

Differentiation by Interest

Build on current ideas and help students branch out to various individual interests.

In studying the Holocaust, students could choose one aspect - propaganda, experimental medical practices, life in a camp, the military perspective, those who hid the victims, other countries' involvement - on which to focus.

Adolescent Lit books could be used to address varied interests, too, accompanying their individual studies. 

Differentiating by Learner Profile

Students could create a Holocaust Museum with projects they choose that support their individual learning styles and multiple intelligences. In one class, the students' displays included posters, journals, dioramas, family trees, biographical display boards of the different people involved, Power Points, clay models, a paper chain representing numbers, knitted artwork, and a simulated gas chamber.

Know Your Students and Their Interests

Using real-world perspectives, personal interests, and project-based learning are great ways to individualize instruction and assessments that engage and empower students. 

One school district created a way for advanced students to go beyond proficiency, but this approach is valuable for students at all readiness levels and can truly motivate learners.

Differentiated Assessment

By differentiating the ways by which students may present their learning and understanding, we support and value the individual learner, empowering him or her to tap into the vehicle he or she chooses to utilize. This encourages engagement, autonomy, self-awareness and efficacy, and meaningful learning.

"As students are presented with assessment activities, they are provided with opportunities to become reflective, self-assessing, internally motivated learners, capable of reaching their learning potentials."

Chapman & King, 2012

Finally- Remember the Climate

To truly value the learner means to establish a classroom environment where every student feels welcome, safe and appreciated. Tomlinson (2005), Chapman and King (2012) all note that this is essential in supporting the learner.

We went into the teaching profession to help each student reach his or her maximum potential while experiencing the love of learning. This is our calling. For us to be truly successful in our endeavor, we must acknowledge, embrace and support each young person we are charged with educating. This is our greatest task and when we achieve it,

we genuinely value the learner.


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