Differentiated Instruction named a Top Trend for 2011

Jan 3, 2011 by

ASCD,  formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, has published a series of blog posts on what they see as the top educational trends for 2011.  They have named Differentiated Instruction as the Number 2 trend, which is both cause for concern and rejoicing.

The concern is that anything labelled as a trend in education is viewed with suspicion and caution.  There always seems to be some new gimmick or gadget to “fix” education, but we all know that it’s not so easy.  Just as there is no miracle cure for weight loss except the hard, day to day work of diet and exercise, there’s no simple “cure” for any problems in education besides good teaching.  Anything with a new label promising better results tomorrow should be viewed with skepticism and caution.  But Differentiated Instruction is not really anything new.  It’s not a fad.  It’s not “new and improved” repackaging of old instructional methods.   It’s a way of viewing education as child-centered, rather than adult-centered.

Differentiated Instruction is just another term for great teaching that seeks to reach each student at their instructional level.  The strategies collected under the term Differentiated Instruction are all about helping teachers figure out where students are, and how to plan lessons that reach all learners.  It’s not a gimmick, or magic- it’s great teaching.  It’s about reaching students and helping them stretch and show themselves what they are capable of. It’s about good communication, and making learning exciting.  It’s about putting kids first, and not treating them like widgets or jars to be filled with knowledge that is just poured back into the bowl we call testing and assessment.

DI, as a trend, is also a cause for rejoicing.  It means more teachers and more administrators will start to look into DI and think about how teachers can better meet student needs.  It means more training and professional development sessions will help teachers use things like backwards design and quick, in class knowledge checks to make sure kids are following what’s going on and not getting lost during class.  It means students may be able to see more of the big picture of why the lesson and education matter, and fewer will feel like school is boring or wasting their time.

I hope DI becoming a trend will help make the classroom a more exciting place for teachers and students.  I hope differentiation will help students know themselves better as learners, and teachers will become better versed at reaching a variety of students, and know when to ask for more help.  DI won’t cure learning disabilities, for example, but it may help kids with learning disabilities have more access to the lessons and learn the best way for them to master the material.  As we look more at how individuals learn, we can help broaden access to lessons and learning experiences to make sure everyone succeeds.

This is going to be an exciting year for us here on the DI blog, and I hope we’ll be able to help you find the tips, strategies and tools you need to make DI a reality in your classroom.  Please ask questions, post comments, and consider joining us over in the forums on personalized learning at Edutopia.  You can sign up for a free account, and come participate in the forums.  The forums include everything from the one we moderate on personalized learning, to others on project-based learning, technology, planning, assessment, special education, classroom management, education reform and more.

We hope to hear from you, and how we can best help you make DI a reality, not just another buzz word, in your classroom.

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