Differentiation is VITAL for effective teaching. Does this mean you need piles upon piles of different resources for thirty different pupils? No. Absolutely, emphatically not!
Lots of great teaching is automatically differentiated. Do you use scaffolding to explain complex ideas? Work one-to-one with pupils to help them understand a problem? And do you set extension questions to stretch students’ thinking? ALL of this is differentiation.
There are three main areas that teachers can focus on to differentiate effectively: feedback, questioning and assessment. All are at the core of what teachers do – making differentiation a key skill to get right today.
Give students dedicated time to act on your feedback
Without it, the fantastic and formative feedback you give, personalised to each student, will disappear into the ether. Students need *time* to implement your feedback if it is to have any impact. Why not set aside twenty minutes at the start of the lesson, and get students to focus on reviewing, discussing and implementing the feedback you have given? You can circulate, scaffold, and model where appropriate to help pupils to use this time effectively.
Develop a varied stock of question stems
This gives you a tool to call on whenever you pose a question to a student. Mentally search through your different question stems to help you ask the right question for the student sitting in front of you. Good question stems include ‘What if …?’, ‘Why would …?’, ‘When should …?’. Take these stems and create sets of exemplar questions of differing levels of complexity. Now you have a range of options to use with students of different abilities.
Help students to understand what good questions look like
If students can ask good questions – if they know what good questions look like – then it is much easier for them to lead their own learning. Support them to be independent, and to self-differentiate. Have you shared a list of poor questions, and a list of high-quality questions with your students? They can use these as a starting point for constructing their own questions.
Assess students before the end of a unit
If you wait until the end of the unit, when will you have time to explore misconceptions and mistakes with your students? Revisit these mistakes early so you can teach away from them quickly.
Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to structure your assessments
The taxonomy is hierarchical and based on the development of mastery. If you use it to structure your assessments, you can be sure they get progressively more challenging.