Monday, November 30, 2009

Deciding to Teach Them All

Tomlinson, C.A. (2003). Deciding to Teach Them All. Educational Leadership 61(2), 6-11.

This article explained one teacher’s method in finding out how to best meet the individual needs of each student, and how Tomlinson feels one can foster equity and excellence in a classroom of mixed ability learners.

This particular teacher came from a gifted program and wanted to use the skills and curriculum she had learned while working with gifted children in a classroom with varied skills and levels. Many adaptations had to be made, but ultimately a successful year emerged.

She was willing to accept responsibility for each individual child’s success, despite circumstances of each child’s life. To do this she asked herself questions of each student that would not limit their academic achievement but rather expand it. Examples of her questions were:

• What are their strengths?
• What can I do to ensure that each student works at the highest level of thought and production possible?
• What releases the motivation born in all humans?
• How might I adapt the agenda to work for the student?
• What circumstances will be the most effective catalyst for this student’s development?

It was through these types of questions that this teacher was able to find equity and excellence for each learner in her classroom. She taught each student from his or her point of entry into the curriculum, therefore all students had quality teaching that challenged them.

After presenting this teacher’s experience and questioning technique, Tomlinson went on to share that differentiation can reinforce status, or it can liberate students from stereotypical expectations. She suggests six principles to foster equity and excellence in academically diverse learners:

1. Good curriculum comes first.
2. All tasks should respect each learner.
3. When in doubt, teach up!
4. Use flexible grouping.
5. Become an assessment junkie.
6. Grade to reflect growth.

Tomlinson believes that it is through these principles teachers will be able to maximize each student’s full potential.

“Instruction furthers excellence when it moves a learner as effectively as possible toward expertise as a thinker, problem solver, and producer.”

“Asking the right questions has an enormous impact on how we pursue equity and excellence in our classroom.”

“Do I intend to teach each individual child?”

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