One of the biggest challenges that teacher are facing in the modern classroom are the attempts that teachers take to respond to an increasingly broad spectrum of student needs, backgrounds, and learning styles. When responding to this issue, the use of differentiation is a way of thinking about how teaching and learning can be applied through the use of a variety of strategies which will address and manage the variety if learning needs in the classroom.
There are a number of strategies available that the teacher can apply within a classroom to assist in identifying students requiring differentiation. Foremost the following strategies must be applied as soon as possible so the data collection process can begin from which classroom plans and units can be implemented.
As noted in this book here many teachers begin to gather information about their students through the reviewing of students’ academic histories. In many State School in Queensland this information is readily available. However if a student has transferred from a school which does not have this information available, the recommended strategy is to contact the school and speak to the students old teachers. A second strategy includes finding the students interest which assists in the planning of activities. Through this strategy in a high school setting, the teacher can make observations through the students computer backgrounds, overheard conversations or having a genuine conversations with individual students when they completing classroom tasks. Interest surveys, preferred ways of learning, and parental discussions are all other types of data gathering tools which will help in identifying the learners with a classroom.
The definition of differentiation is somewhat similar to equity where teachers need to assess students from the same set of criteria. However with differentiation the teacher is to develop tiered assessment for students instead of modifying them to be more appropriate. This could become a challenge for teachers as this would make marking of assessments harder when comparing two students work together. Also this requires further planning from teachers who already have compact schedules when preparing lessons for the wide variety of students. While it could be possible but there is always the chance that some students learning needs would not be met.
The book found in this link here, within Chapter 10 contains a variety of strategies for students with special needs such as those with Learning Disabilities, Behavioural Disorders, Physical Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or students with Dual Difference which is defined as a student who has strengths in one area but has difficulties in another.
When examining Gifted and Talented Students, which should not be confused with Higher Achiever students, these types of learners have knowledge that far surpass those of their classmates. In applying differentiation to this group of learners, the teacher is to provide opportunities for the students to go beyond what the curriculum and a particular teacher can offer. Therefore these students are to be provided with extra material that goes beyond what other students will be completing. However if a classroom contains a student that has a reading learning difficulty where that student is reading below the grade level, differentiation may include providing reading materials that are more appropriate or design assessment that is easier and more direct for the student understand.