This is the first week of my class, differentiated instruction. Similar to other classes I was asked to create a mind map of my initial thoughts prior to reviewing the course material for the week and then again after. Here you can see my initial thoughts (very limited!) of what I believed to be differentiated instruction in green. Thoughts and connections I have concluded after viewing the unit readings and videos are visible in purple. Working on this mind map has helped me understand how my instruction, evaluation and assessment of students can be adversely affected by my learning strengths and weaknesses. I have also realized that differentiated instruction is much more than simply adapting a learning activity from one type of media to another.
The assignment this week was to complete a learner sketch activity (“Your Learner Sketch,” 2015) in which these factors were described at the end in a report. In my work as a dental hygienist, I can see how I use my strengths to benefit the care I provide to my patients. In this same way, I could also identify with ways in which I can build on my weaknesses to further benefit patients in my care. For example, one of my strengths is to express my thoughts verbally. So often I have only provided instructions to my patients in this way. I am humbled to realize that I have always done it this way, with little regard for putting these instructions in writing. This is not to say that I have not been aware that some individuals learn better with written information versus verbal, but to some capacity I have often thought that because I am so good at providing verbal instruction, perhaps they will not need anything more. However, there are some that I have taken another step to provide this to them, but more often than not I have not. So really, what I recognize to be most important is that regardless of how clear I feel I have spoken, for those who learn best from written information it is best to vary my instruction to meet those patients’ need.
To my colleagues I would suggest that you become familiar with your learning strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know these because they will influence your preference for instructing and assessments, including your general evaluation of student work (Sternberg & Zhang, 2005). Recognize that your students are very likely to have different strengths and weakness that yours. Within any class you teach some students will not need nearly as much support as others (Tomlinson, 2012). It cannot be overstated that varied instruction is a must (Gardner, 2009). Although some methods of teaching will feel more comfortable than others, a varied approach ensures that all students will be addressed in the way they prefer at least some of the time (Sternberg & Zhang, 2005). Instead of looking at the classroom as a whole, try to observe the differences between students and visualize both the classroom and you as their teacher, from each of your student’s perspective (Tomlinson, 2001).
We are all learners whether in a formal or informal way does not matter. What matters is that you identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and try to find ways in which to improve them. In the education environment try to find ways to modify what you are learning to utilize your strengths so learning is not so difficult.
Your learner sketch. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.facesoflearning.net/your-learner-sketch/
Gardner, H. (2009, November 7). Howard gardner of the multiple intelligence theory [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2QtSbP4FRg
Sternberg, R. J., Zhang, L. (2005). Styles of thinking as a basis of differentiated instruction. Theory Into Practice, 44(3), 245-253.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2012, July 10). What is differentiated instructions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bApuBiitL8Q