Learning Profile- Differentiated Instruction
December 15, 2010 · 1 Comment · Differentiating Instruction, learning, Teaching
Over the last few days, I have been rereading parts of Carol Ann Tomlinson and Marcia Imbeau book Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom. In order to lead a DI classroom, the professional teacher must be well aware of the the learner’s needs in the classroom. I don’t think that this has changed much in teaching over the last 100 years but we know so much more about our learners from research and our observations. As the authors point out those teachers who stay in the classroom longer than a day do pay attention to individual learner’s differences and they do respond to these learners in some way, but often they may respond negatively to those learners they deem as disruptive. We have to be proactive in addressing student differences in readiness, interest, and learning profile.
Carol Ann Tomlison and many other people like her who is willing to share their work with educators around the globe. I count on numerous professional teachers around the globe to share with my in my PLN and I try to share with them. Professional organizations like NCTE and ASCD who constantly publish book and articles and make information available on the World Wide Web is phenominal. Educational bloggers who offer a glimpse of what they are learning about content and pedagogy and DI as it happens in their classroom is exciting. Then I have the network of professionals inside the walls of my district who are willing to share. From all the work that is happening in many different networks we are learn ways to address student differences in readiness, interest, and learning profile.
On page 17 in Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom, the authors address for elements and interactions that shape the learning profile of students. I want to push the card further by adding a fifth element: technology and innovation.
1. Learning style- Learning style includes but not limited to visual, auditory,tactile-kinesthetic to working alone or with groups, in a bright room or a darkened environment, sitting still or moving.
2. Intelligence preference- We have to recognize there are more than one intelligence at play and each learner in hardwired different. Some learners think differently. I have a friend who thinks in terms of musical notes and has the ability to show knowledge through music and art. We have to recognize the work Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. No Child Left Behind requires the one mold fits all to all kids and we know it does not work. You ask kids in Kindergarten if they are creative and everyone of them will raise their hand. You ask a fifth grade class the same question you are lucky to have one person raise his hand. We have citizens who are recovering from their failure in our schools because their intelligence was not recognized. The video below of Sir Ken Robinson talking about intelligences draws lot of attending to the different learners we see in our classrooms.
3. Gender- “Approaches to learning maybe shaped genetically or socially for males versus females.” (Tomlinson, pg 17) There is lot of research, studies and real classroom examples being shared in professional networks. Many schools are begining to address gender in learning academically. We still have much more to learn in this area. We realize that male and females may not learn the same way and there are certain patterns that might enhance learning, but I do feel much of this is connected to social and culture patterns that are learned through life experiences. But we cannot disregard that genetically we are wired differently. I love the example of Sir Ken Robinson uses about his wife as a multi-tasker while she is cooking. I see this in my own wife. She is able to cook, clean, talk on the phone, help do homework and text all at the same time. Where as I everyone out of the house and out of the kitchen to cook a meal. Gender should be considered when thinking about the learners in our classrooms.
4. Culture-We are all a product of the many or little experiences we grow up with in life. We make sense of the world around us by the people and community we grow up in. We recongnize how we communicates, relate to one another across generations, envision power structures, celebrate, and mourn and show respect. We have to pay attention very carefully for these patterns with our students. Teaching for 18 plus year in a community with many varied close communities. Kids from one particular community I noticed that they would never look at an adult face to face. There eyes would look off in the distance when confront these kids one on one. It was almost they were looking off to try to ignore the adult and I thought it was a sign of disrespect. These kids were taught in their community that this was a sign of respect for adults. We have to be aware of these patterns and be willing to address these learners differently. We have look to our networks for a range of teaching and learning approaches that reflect the culture of the learners.
5.Poverty-When I entered the classroom 23 years ago, I was so unprepared to meet the demands of all the learners I was charged to teach. I did recognize individual differences when he came to those students who were not the status quo of the ideal student I had envisioned in my mind. You would think and most of the time Poverty kids were so easy to identify. In the last four years in the classroom I found this task harder as the social economic began to shift. I did have to learn about thos kids who came to school physcially hungry on Mondays. I learned about those kids who had very little clothing and about their dirty clothes. I learned about those kids who were smelly. I learned about a child that had no running water in their home. I most recently was invited into a home of a family that could not speak English and had sewage in their yard- just a few feet from where their child played and their dogs drank. I learned how not having the basic needs killed a childs abilty to perform well in school and how their home life killed what was happening in the classroom. I learned how basic healthcare is so important to a well being of a young learner. I saw too how many teachers missed those signs and could not understand why such a bright child who had so much potential could not do her work. I have seen teachers mentally beat down kids because of their life in poverty.
6. Technology and Innovation-Kids born in this century were born into a digital environment and they may have older brothers and sisters and even parents who are surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Older brothers and sisters have spend their whole lives surrounded by the Internet and digit the digital world. But the kids of this century were born directly into this new world. They are our real stake holders. Just think those kids who entered Kindergarten this year will retire around the year 2070. I can’t imagine what that world will be like. Marc Prensky point out in his famous article Digital Natives, Digital Imigrants in 2001, “It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today‟s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” In this environment, as in any culture, the way they think about things may be entirely different. Some brain researchers argue that their brains wired differently because of exposure to digital as compared to those who were not. It is necessary for the 21st century educator to consider how technology (digital) affects the learner in the classroom. Old ways of teaching and learning, the one size fits all, no longer works. I wander if digital is redeveloping the way we store, process, and represent information in the mind?
In conclusion, I read this statment some where recently that kids today bring knowledge they from the outside world to the classroom and the classroom cannot relate to that world. What is happening in our classrooms have no relevance with the world outside the school. Students are bumfuzzled with the education process unless the learner finds ways or accepts the rule of school. We are challenged to approach each child as uniquely individual learners. In our learning networks we have more knowledge, support, and resources. The task is never easy. It does not happen over night. DI is not a new way of teaching or a set of strategies, but DI is embedded in the teachers beliefs about every learner that walks into our classrooms. Our learners should be challenging our core beliefs about teaching and learning. It is uncomfortable making change.