Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom

Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Fulfilling the promise of the differentiated classroom. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development,


In this book the author provides a view of what the differentiated classroom might look like and how to arrive there. Tomlinson provides numerous examples and “real world” ideas that apply directly to the teaching practice. In chapter three “Teacher Response to Student needs: A Starting Point for Differentiation”, she discusses five core elements that emphasize the importance of making students connections and personalizing their education, things teachers can start implementing right away. The main ideas she expresses in this chapter are:

• Invitation-acceptance not only by the teacher but the classroom environment as a whole
• Opportunity-the student had a chance to challenge oneself in meaningful ways with the support of the teacher
• Investment-student feels a part of the classroom structure and takes pride in it, respect
• Persistence-the teacher will be here to support your learning and guide you to alternate routes if necessary to complete the task
• Reflection-the student and teacher are working as a team constantly growing and learning from each other

I thought this particular chapter was so thoughtful in expressing ways to start making further connections with students. The charts she includes in the text discussing the above elements are also excellent resources I would like to have as a poster of in my classroom. I was able to really connect with the proposed ideas and why differentiation and student connections are so important the impact it has. I will continue reading more of this text as I am interested in the further “real world” scenarios that follow. The book also definitely applies to my action research question.

Nonetheless, sometimes we shove past those reservations and make ties with our students. Some of us consistently ignore these reservations and really get to know our students, becoming the kind of teachers who shape their students' lives to reflect a greater hope, confidence, and promise than these young people brought to the classroom as the year began.

These teachers ultimately say to their students, “I want to be a leader in creating a place where each of you becomes more keenly aware of the possibilities in yourself, the people around you, and the power of knowledge. In this place, I want us to find together a good way to live.”

Consciously or unconsciously, the young person continues to measure the benefits against the risks. The teacher who intends to make ties with the student is permanently attuned to factors that enhance the invitation and minimize the risk for each learner and for the class as a whole.

To provide opportunity is to provide materials, tasks, applications, and problems that are rich with meaning for learners. To provide opportunity is to help learners have a voice in what and how they learn and to find their own voice through what they study. It is to feed the learner's curiosity and challenge the learner's natural drive toward competence (Meier, 1995).

These educators communicate investment. Students do not miss the message. These are teachers invested in what they teach, whom they teach, and where they teach, and the ideals for which they stand. Their messages come not simply from slogans on classroom walls, but from living out their beliefs.

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