In Carol Ann Tomlinson’s book, “Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms,” it describes differentiation as “teacher’s reacting responsively to a learner’s needs,” and reacting in an active and positive manner. It is the opposite of the idea that all students learn the same way and should be provided with the same type of instruction. Instead, it focuses on the specific learning needs of each individual. The elements of curriculum that can be differentiated are content, process, and products. You can differentiate also by using student characteristics, such as readiness, interest, and learning profile. Among Tomlinson’s instructional strategies, I would love to use the following:
- learning centers
- interest groups
- group investigation
- learning contracts
Universal Design for Learning
According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, the purpose of Universal Design for Learning is to provide all students equal opportunities to learn through curriculum development. This curriculum development focuses on three networks: recognition, strategic, and affective. This requires teachers to develop curriculum that presents content in multiple methods, provide students with multiple ways of demonstrating their knowledge, and integrate their interests into the learning process to challenge and motivate them.
The purpose of implementing adaptations is to ensure that students with disabilities are able to access quality education. This comes in the form of accommodation and modification. Accommodations are any adaptations that does not alter educational standards. These adaptations allow students with disabilities to access the materials, content, or instruction that are similar to his/her peers. According to Douglas Fisher, an example of this is when a teacher assigns less problems, but not lowering the level of the problems. Some teachers view these adaptations as unfair, but without them, students would be measured by the “impact of their disabilities” and not by what they know. Modifications on the other hand are do alter the educational standards so that students with disabilities can participate in general education curriculum. An example of a modification (provided by Douglas Fisher) is when a teacher decides to provide a student with less possible answers to a multiple-choice quiz. The level of the problem changes since the student with a disability has a higher chance of answering the question correct.
An inclusive classroom makes each student feel valued and challenged. Classroom management issues decrease because each valued member wants to cooperative and be productive for the good of the learning community. This can be done by the teacher using positive reinforcement for good behavior. This in turn will result in peer pressure among students to actively function in positive social behaviors. Flexible grouping is a strategy that lets students with disabilities take part in the curriculum through heterogeneous or homogeneous groupings. The heterogeneous grouping allows these students to take part in the same activities as their peers. The homogeneous grouping allows teachers to give specific targeted instruction based on their students’ needs. According to “The Golden Rule of Providing Support in Inclusive Classrooms,” some of problems of separating students with disabilities with their classmates are:
- Unnecessary dependence on adults
- Lack of peer interactions
- Loss of personal control and gender identity
Instead, the article recommends using the Fade Adult Support process where teachers plan to include, ask and listen to the student with a disability, step back, and then plan to fade the support.