Monday, July 13, 2009

Chapter 6: Responsive Teaching with UbD in Academically Diverse Classrooms

As a note, each chapter poses several questions. Please do not feel obligated to answer each question by number; rather, use them as a guide for you to respond to the reading and share your thinking about the ideas in the book.

1. This chapter proposes several “givens” or principles of planning that support effective differentiation:

  • All students (except those with IEPs indicating otherwise, which is the case for other the givens that follow) should work with the big ideas and essential skills of a topic.
  • All students should work at high levels of thought and on authentic tasks.
  • All students should have consistent support for growing in understanding and skill.
  • All students should have opportunity to make personal meaning of important ideas.
  • Teacher-guided instruction should ensure clarity of student understanding.
  • Students should have full knowledge of learning goals and indicators of success.
  • Pre-assessment and formative assessment should guide teacher thinking and instructional planning.

Examining the principles one by one, what are likely outcomes in classrooms where teachers attempt to “differentiate instruction” when the principle is not evident in the teacher's practice?

2. It is likely the case that, at various times, teachers play the role of direct instructor, facilitator, and coach (See Figure 6.1). Give specific examples of when each role is needed. How do you think differentiation looks different across those roles? What would remain consistent about differentiation across the roles?

3. Review Figure 6.2: Options for Flexible Use of Classroom Elements to Address Learning Needs.

  • Which classroom elements do you already use in flexible ways to address learner variance?
  • In which of the elements would you like to continue developing flexibility of use?
  • Revise the figure by suggesting other examples of flexible use and other learner needs the adaptations could address.

4. Based on your own experience and ideas from the chapter, what are ways teachers can make instructional planning more manageable and efficient when they work to meet the varying needs of diverse learners?


Chelsea said...

When teachers attempt to differentiate without the given principles stated in chapter six there is no clear focus on instruction or rigor for all students. Direct instruction, such as modeling, is necessary when students need to follow specific procedures during a lesson. Teachers play the role of the facilitator when students are exploring and discovering a concept and collaborating with classmates. Coaching occurs when students independently practice a skill and the teacher can give feedback and guidance immediately. Differentiation can occur as direct instruction, facilitation, and coaching happens. Teachers may focus on a variety of modalities when modeling procedures, such as visual and verbal cues for visual and auditory learners, as well as allow students to act out or practice the procedures for kinesthetic learners. When students are exploring a concept with classmates the teacher can facilitate learning by varying the grouping of students. For example, he may group students by interest, heterogeneously by skill level, homogeneously by ability, allow students choice, or randomly (pick a card). Coaching allows the teacher to work one-on-one with students who have varying needs and challenges, and check in with individuals along the way. Teachers should plan for these types of differentiation at each stage of instruction to ensure all students’ needs and challenges are being addressed.
In the past few years I have tried a variety of options to attend to learner needs. I was able to use the classroom space to create a “quiet zone” for students who were easily distracted or distracting, and varied the arrangement of table regularly. My students also enjoy using online resources and manipulatives to practice and understand concepts in class or on home assignments. I frequently switch the delivery or instruction from whole-group to small-group to independent work throughout a lesson, and facilitate discussion and student thought through questioning. I have also delegated classroom responsibilities to students to streamline other procedures that focus on the lesson each day. Tiered assessments and assignments is also a strategy I have found very useful and appreciated by students.
I would like to work on compacting and exempting students from work in which they demonstrate mastery. I am also interested to see how homework contracts work in a classroom; I am not familiar with these. I plan to use more of the online resources for students in and out of the classroom. Incorporating students’ cultures and interests into lessons would also be a great way for me to connect with my students. I need to delegate responsibilities to students so I may focus on the students and their learning better. In addition to the list of strategies given in Figure 6.2, I would also add “allow ‘private think time’ for all students before whole- or small-group discussion and collaboration. This ensures all students have the chance to think independently and process without the pressure of other classmates, and are also able to contribute their thoughts without being interrupted.
Collaborating with teachers at the same grade level and in the same discipline to come up with strategies is a resourceful way to make planning for differentiation more manageable and efficient. If a teacher does not have the ability to plan with colleagues of the same discipline collaborating with teachers who have the same students is also an option. Sharing ideas and strategies that have worked in the past or checking in with one another to see how each strategy is working is an effective way to find efficient means to differentiation.

Anonymous said...

Two ideas struck me while reading this chapter.

First, I am intrigued by the idea of a teacher being a coach, an instructor, and a facilitator and how each of these roles might impact differentiation. While I see how there might be some differences to each of these modes, I am more struck by the similarities that all of them have. Two significant similarities that I see are the ideas of purpose driven activities and focus on essentials. I don’t believe there is a person alive who likes to do an activity without seeing a purpose for the activity. So, why should we ask our students to do this? For me, the teacher (coach, facilitator and instructor) owes it to the students to develop activities that do hold a purpose. Otherwise, it becomes the sports drill without an on field application. Likewise, the teacher (coach, facilitator and instructor) should keep the activities focused on the agreed essentials. I believe I will post the essential questions in my room this year as a reminder to my students, but also to me, of the “on field application” that is the drive behind all of the activities we complete.

Finally, I loved Chelsea’s addition of “private think time” in Figure 6.2. We could all benefit from a bit of this before engaging in a task. 