Why Differentiate?

Why should we differentiate instruction? It seems like a fair question. I think that beyond all of the research, the answer lies within each of us if we honestly ask ourselves how we best learn and use what we know on a daily basis.

For some people, listening to someone talk about theories while they take notes works just fine. For others though, sitting through such presentations is almost painful, even as adults. The idea of going back to school and re-living our schooling experience is something that fills many of us with dread.

Another thing to consider is how you felt if you ever took a class that caused you to struggle. Did the teacher just keep moving forward without any regard to your confusion and frustration? Imagine having entire days filled with that feeling. This is just my take on it, but it seems to me that considering where each student is starting out is vitally important if we want to see as many children succeed as possible. Nobody likes feeling lost or left behind. Staying motivated is difficult when you feel that you are falling behind more and more with each passing day.

We also must acknowledge the years of research that shows that people learn in different ways. The image that comes to mind for me is any time I have started into a project that involves assembling something. Forgive me if this is a poor example, but it works for me. Sometimes, when I’m starting a project, I find that there are clear instructions, written in English, that I can grasp easily and follow without any trouble at all. Other times though, despite my best intentions as I open the box before me, I find that the instructions are written only in Chinese. At those times, I need a different method to achieve my goals. It isn’t that I’ve suddenly turned stupid. I just cannot grasp what has been set in front of me at that instant. If my background had included a few years of living in China, there is a chance that I might be able to piece together enough information to complete the project. The fact is though, I have absolutely no clue how to read that language. The written symbols look like total gibberish to me. Now, give me some simple diagrams to follow, and I’m back in business. I can achieve my original goal of assembling whatever the project of the day is without any trouble. I just needed to take a different route to get there.

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