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Posts Tagged ‘differentiated

This is the first part of my week-long focused reflection on flipping.

I posted a rather cryptic tweet in the aftermath of #educampsg and in response to a query on flipping.

I unpack the tweet by illustrating with questions or comments that I get frequently from teachers.

One thing that troubles some teachers is the link between flipping and self-directed learning. They realize that for both flipped classrooms and flipped learning to be successful, students must learn to be more independent and self-motivated. However, they put the cart before the horse when they ask questions like: “Doesn’t flipping only favour students who are self-directed?” or “How do I ensure that students complete pre-class work?”

This sort of thinking presumes that self-directedness must be a prerequisite to flipping. They reason that if their students are not motivated, they will not consume content before class and flipping breaks down at the very first step. Furthermore, since academically strong students tend to be more motivated, teachers often make the assumption that flipping favours such students. Since students are not likely to cooperate or if flipping only seems to benefit a few, teachers reason that it is not worth the effort.

That is not how to approach flipping. I argue that well-designed and skillfully-managed flipping is one way of nurturing self-directed learners.

In a conventionally flipped class, a teacher might find out that only half of his/her class watched a video, completed a webquest, or collected some data beforehand. Flipping breaks down if the teacher opts to deliver content again in class. The students who refused to play their part get their way and the ones who followed instructions feel cheated.

A persistent educator will resist the urge to give in and might instead apply social pressure on those who have not completed their work prior to class. This could mean pursuing the in-class activity that is linked to and builds on the out-of-class activity, e.g., a Flubaroo-graded quiz. Both the teacher and the students who did work beforehand apply pressure on those who did not.

This takes time to work and can be very effective should students be provided access to resources whether at home or in school, and if school leaders and parents support the teacher. The students who do not play ball then run out of reasons to not join in the game.

Now all that said, a learner-centred teacher could also provide leeway to those who did not do the work beforehand but were still able to answer questions, solve problems, or complete tasks acceptably. The students could be quick learners or learn non-linearly by picking up cues and clues in class. This means that having self-directed learners is less of an issue here; the capacity of the teacher to differentiate instruction is.

Flipping is not the end result of having self-directed learners; it is a means to that end. Flipping is not a just a product of teachers who are already skilled in differentiating instruction; it is a means for teachers to learn how to do this.

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Differentiated instruction (DI) is what a teacher attempts to do to students; personal learning is what a student does to help himself or herself.

DI is like how clothing stores offer t-shirts in sizes like small, medium, or large. Teachers who attempt DI and t-shirt stores attempts to provide something that suits almost everyone, but cannot fit everyone just right each time.

Despite this, teachers who attempt to DI because they recognize individual talents and differences are better than those who give in to peddling one-size-fits-all.

That said, educators realize they cannot customize for everyone. So what do they do?

Personal learning is like the learner finding and making clothes to their own size and preferences. Educators show their learners how to do this. They show them how to find, analyze, and evaluate information. They model problem finding and problem solving. They emphasize learning how to learn.

 
One thing an educator can do with a flipped classroom is to differentiate for learning. After all, the point of flipping is to focus on the learner and learning.

Why differentiate? For the simple reason that no two learners are exactly alike. The ideal would be to individualize, but this can be difficult with large classes. The compromise is to cluster students into relatively homogenous groups based on abilities, preferences, or some other relevant trait. (There is also room for heterogenous groups, but that is another story.)

Another reason for differentiating is to provide choice. If flipped learning is to nurture self-directed and ultimately independent learners, then they must be given choices on how they learn. (With curricular constraints, it might not be realistic to provide indefinite choices on what they learn.)

What choices can educators provide learners?

There is the choice of content. By this I mean the medium the content is on (e.g., books, websites, videos, simulations, games, the teacher as source) as well as the selection of topic or level or topic (e.g., remedial, beginner, intermediate, advanced).

The task is also something that can be chosen. The deliverable might be done in class, online only, or both. It might be written, drawn, spoken, or otherwise performed. The learning strategies are just as rich: Collaborative projects, individual exploration, group inquiry, etc.

Depending on the content and task, the assessment would also vary but match the content and task. Something that is performance-based (e.g., a speech) should not be force fit and assessed only as a written assignment.

There is a variety of assessment options: rubrics, e-portfolios (evidence-based, focusing on processes and products), checklists, teacher observations, quizzes, peer feedback, and so on.

If flipping is compared to food preparation, then differentiating is a buffet that provides healthy choices for all patrons. Whatever the choices, there should be staples in the buffet that the patrons must partake. They should all have some individual work and group work. They should all learn to reflect critically and self-evaluate.

Ultimately, the learner should address these questions:

  • What did I learn?
  • How did I learn it?
  • Why is it important?
  • What evidence do I have for learning?


Video source

This is an old video created by Shelly Terrell to promote the use of Twitter and the hashtag #edchat for teacher professional development (PD).

It is not the centrally organized sort of PD most folk are familiar with. It is more along the lines of individualized PD. To echo what John Spencer mentioned in that blog entry, if we see the need for differentiated instruction we should also see the need for differentiated PD.

Twitter is not the only way to customize your own PD. You can do this with RSS feeds, Facebook and Google+. The point is that you get to choose what you want or need.

Many thanks to @shamsensei and @tucksoon for highlighting the video on Twitter.


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