As discussed in Strategy Two: Scaffold and Stretch, fitting differentiation and challenge tasks into lessons can often risk being tokenistic or losing meaning, especially if it’s done ‘because that’s what you’re supposed to do’. Before even looking at how we differentiate, we need to look at why.
Differentiation is a key area for teachers at any level of their practice. For trainees and NQTs, it is clearly listed in the Teacher Standards that you will be assessed against. For those more advanced in their careers, differentiation is not only part of the Teacher Standards but also a crucial part of Ofsted inspections, falling in under Quality of Teaching: Learning and Assessment. Like all elements of good teaching, differentiation is something that underpins lessons and is built into the very framework of the classroom. It isn’t something that happens overnight and anyone who walks into a classroom will know if it’s something you’ve just tried to throw in for the sake of a show.
So why does it matter? In an ideal world, every student in every classroom would have a personally tailored and individually suited education experience. Every child is different and every one of them has strengths and weaknesses that will differ to the child next to them. In reality, it is impossible to provide every student with such an individual experience. There is not the time or the resources in the classroom. However, there will be trends in your classroom. Some students are stronger at grammar, at mental Maths, at understanding cause and effect. Some students will be quicker than others, more able, no matter how streamlined your setting system might be. This is where differentiation becomes important. Getting it right can not only save you time and energy, often lost seeing to those few students who are struggling or are already finished, but it can also ensure maximum progress for maximum students with minimum input.
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