Pamela M. Jones, M.S.Ed., MPA

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1 Ensuring African American Students Get the Education They Deserve: Exploring Differentiated Instruction as One Viable Approach to Combat One-Size-Fits-All Education September 22 nd, 2011 Pamela M. Jones, M.S.Ed., MPA Advisor & Instructor Bank Street College of Education

2 Introduction As a result of the deficit-driven education that many African American children have received, there exists an education debt (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p. 5). Much policy and practice has been designed to address the needs of an undifferentiated group of students (Banks et al., 2007, p. 25), rendering many students educational experiences deficient. We need to look to key curricular approaches such as differentiated instruction as one way to begin to pay down this education debt that we have amassed.

3 Table of Contents Differentiated Instruction(DI) Defined Components of DI DI: Steps to Follow DI: The Macro View DI: The Micro View (with a Mini-Example) Closing Thoughts

4 Differentiation Defined Tomlinson (2001) notes, At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means shaking up what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively (p. 1). In short, differentiated instruction counters a onesize-fits-all approach to curriculum and instruction.

5 What Differentiation Is & Isn t Differentiation Is Differentiation Is NOT A philosophy a way of life in the classroom (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 7). A set of instructional strategies (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 13) A process that takes time, trial, and error. A one-shot, isolated activity. As much about a positive learning environment, high-quality curriculum, assessment, & flexible classroom management as it is about instruction (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 13). About planning and being proactive (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 13). About reaching the different ability levels in your classroom (i.e., what works for one or two students often works for others as well). Only about Instruction (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 13). Something that happens naturally in the course of a teacher s daily instructional schedule (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 13). About individualizing instruction (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 2).

6 Components of DI Four Primary Components: Content: Is the input, what students learn (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 4) the knowledge, understanding, and skills we want students to learn (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 15). Process: Is how students go about making sense of ideas and information (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 15). Product: How students demonstrate what they have learned (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, p. 15). Assessment: Before, formative (during) & summative.

7 Components (Continued) Four (4) Additional Components/Consideration: Affect: How students emotions and feelings impact their learning ; Readiness: A student s current proximity to specified knowledge, understanding, and skills ; Interest: That which engages the attention, curiosity, and involvement of a student ; and Learning Profile: A preference for taking in, exploring, or expressing content (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010, pp ).

8 Affect: An Additional Note It is vital to take into consideration our students affective needs and predispositions when crafting lessons plans and designing curricula. This is a central component of differentiated instruction. Research indicates that African-American males, in particular, have cited the following as necessary to their learning: Knowing that their voice will be taken seriously & counted (Zvric, 1997 as cited in Hobbs, 2010, p. 124); Engaging in oral expression as they are being coached through the (learning) process (Zvric, 1997 as cited in Hobbs, 2010, p. 124); Feeling comfortable and trusting that the teacher is listening (Zvric, 1997 as cited in Hobbs, 2010, p. 124); and Establishing culturally-connected and caring relationships with their fellow students (Burt, Ortlieb, & Cheek, 2009, p. 42).

9 A Graphic Representation of DI s Components Parts

10 DI: Steps to Follow Step One: Conduct assessments. Step Two: Use assessment & observation data to determine students learning profiles, document their interests, readiness for the work slated, and identify their affective predispositions (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010). Step Three: Choose activities that connect to students interests & analyze said task for its inherent demands & barriers. Step Four: Differentiate the lesson activity with regard to content, process, and product. Also, consider student readiness, affect, interest, and learning profile (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010). Assess again at this point. Step Five: Re-assess.

11 DI: The Macro View Administrative and school-wide support of teachers differentiation efforts is crucial for a successful end-result. Specifically, administrative support can look like: Frequent Check-ins: Observations, meetings, constructive feedback; Additional Personnel (when necessary); & Additional Resources (i.e., materials, time, etc.).

12 DI: The Micro View Within the CLASSROOM, certain things need to be in place for differentiation to occur. These include: Procedures and routines that facilitate the instructional plan adopted; A physical arrangement that facilitates the groupings and activities adopted; & Flexible student groupings & rigorous, substantive activities for all students regardless of current performance level (Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010).

13 A Sample Differentiation of a Reading Comprehension Task For the Struggling Reader For the Accelerated Reader Content: Modify text to match readers current level of understanding by Simplifying sentence structure & vocabulary and Isolating key concepts & delete extraneous pieces of information (Merritt & Culatta, 1998). Process: Allow students to work in peer groups for additional support & opt for less complex instructional approaches (McTighe, 2008). Product: Provide the opportunity for alternate demonstrations of comprehension always retaining rigor. Content: Modify text to match readers current level of understanding by Providing comparatively more text to read for comprehension purposes & Allowing for greater text complexity: vocabulary, sentence structure. Process: Integrate more complex instructional methods and allow students to work independently & to self-assess (McTighe, 2008, p. 55). Product: Provide the opportunity for alternate demonstrations of comprehension allow students to choose from amongst the following options (McTighe, 2008, p. 55)

14 Closing Thoughts In order for African-American students to receive the quality education that they deserve, approaches such as differentiated instruction need to be a part of every teacher s pedagogical repertoire. Perhaps this talk is best summed up by the words of Robert Lake (1990), a father speaking to his child s teacher: What you say and what you do in the classroom, what you teach and how you teach it, and what you don t say and don t teach will have a significant effect on the potential success or failure of my child Stated simply, given its attention to the learning profile, affect, readiness, and interests, differentiated instruction has the potential to effect marked, positive change in our students academic performance for the short- & long-term.

15 References Anyon, J. (1980). Social class and the hidden curriculum. Journal of Education, 62(1), Banks, J.A., Au, K.H., Ball, A.F., Bell, P, Gordon, E.W., Gutiérrez, K.D., et al. (2007). Learning in and out of school in diverse environments: Life-long, life-wide, life-deep. Seattle: Center for Multicultural Education. Beers, K. (2003). When kids can t read, what teachers can do: A guide for teachers Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Blanchett, W.J., Klingner, J.K., & Harry, B. (2009). The intersection of race, culture, language, and disability: Implications for urban education. Urban Education, 44(4), Hobbs, S. (2010). The Social Perceptions And Attitudes Held By African American Males Who Participated In A Self-Contained Special Education Middle School Program For Three Years And Dropped Out Of High School After The Ninth Grade. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved From Digital Dissertations. ( ) Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in U.S. schools. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 3-12.

16 References (Continued) Lake, R. (1990). An Indian father s plea. Teacher Magazine, 2, McTighe, J. (2008). Connecting content and kids: Integrating understanding by design and differentiated instruction. Columbia, MD. Merritt, D.D. & Culatta, B. (1998). Language intervention in the classroom. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Learning. Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2 nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Tomlinson, C.A. & Imbeau, M.B. (2010). Leading and managing a differentiated classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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