MON: Differentiation And Inclusion (Anne Bjelke)
Cloud created by:
24 January 2018
Differentiation and inclusion
Treating as equal those who are different just makes them more unequal.
Inclusion is desired in education. This applies to both teachers and pupils. Networking enables inclusion for teachers’ professional development. In this respect I discuss the new curriculum being introduced in my country Peru and an online course I wrote for teachers for the Ministry of Education. The curriculum introduces the notion of competences and formative assessment and teachers are helped to understand it and change their current practices through the opportunities offered by professional networking. There are barriers to inclusion, but many steps forward have been taken.
However, for any curriculum practice to be successful there needs to be learning. Most educational systems round the world apply a uniform curriculum Homogeneity is sought based on the idea that giving everybody the same is a way of providing equal opportunities and therefore students will not be excluded. At the same time, however, teachers recognise the differences amongst their pupils early on in an academic year. We therefore have a tension created by educational systems which seek to be inclusive but because of differences amongst pupils the one size fits all premise actually reinforces their differences and serves to exclude pupils. This is where the differentiated classroom comes in.
Howard Gardner, the renowned American developmental psychologist, believes that the way to respond to this tension is by ‘teaching to the individual and in lots of different ways’ (Gardner, 2013). Teachers should use the information they have about the differences in their pupils –which may be cognitive, emotional or social– in order to teach them in ways that are suited to their ways of thinking and learning adding that we can do that nowadays because of computers which through the internet and various programmes provide access to a wealth of resources, information and ideas.
Consequently, if we aim for inclusion in education what we need to take into account mainly are differences amongst pupils, how to teach to the individual whilst following a set curriculum and how to teach in different ways –these are the principles of differentiation. It is not so much what we teach but how we teach it that matters (Tomlinson, 2003). I consider the ideas of Rebeca Anijovich (Anijovich, 2005) who advocates for the following of a compulsory core curriculum and for giving pupils choices. Billie Birnie (Birnie, 2015) has answers for how complicated and time consuming the differentiated classroom may be. She supports the idea that differentiation is not a strategy or a model of instruction but a way of thinking about teaching and learning that advocates beginning where individuals are rather than with a prescribed plan of action that ignores pupil variance. My argument is that it is all possible nowadays because of the opportunities technology offers to provide options of interesting and appealing work for pupils at different levels and the professional networking practices of teachers. The differentiated classroom is an important element in inclusion and I will look at how technology and networking enable its effectiveness.