Carol Tomlinson writes,
"A class is not differentiated when assignments are the same for all learners and the adjustments consist of varying the level of difficulty of questions for certain students, grading some students harder than others, or letting students who finish early play games for enrichment. It is not appropriate to have more advanced learners do extra math problems, extra book reports, or after completing their "regular" work be given extension assignments." [How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms, 1995, p. 9]If you've heard about differentiation, you've probably come across some of Tomlinson's writing. She's practically the differentiation guru. I want to be the first to admit it publicly, if the description above is NOT differentiation, I have a lot to learn about this topic. I know that differentiation happens through product, process and content, but if it doesn't involve extra math problems and extension assignments then my pre-service AND in-service education has been....how do I say this politely?....misleading!
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Differentiating the High School Classroom by Kathie F. Nunley. I received close to a dozen books for Christmas and this was not one of them. It's checked out from the local area education agency's professional library and is due back in a few weeks, so I figured I had better read it before digging into the new stack. Look for future posts related to differentiation as I learn from Nunley's book.
Nearly every educator I know claims to differentiate in his/her classroom. As I look to reshape my own definition of differentiation-in-action, I'd like to know what it looks like with your students. Feel free to leave a comment below with your best differentiation thoughts and stories.