Earlier this fall, we invited Tonya R. Moon, Ph.D. to visit with the faculty to do a deep dive into differentiated instruction, commonly referred to as DI. As educators and parents know, how children learn is as individual as the children themselves. We observe learning differences in our own children, their friends, and even in ourselves. Why people learn differently varies widely, ranging from learning styles, interests, or prior school experiences to influences such as gender, race, and culture.
With so many variables affecting how one learns, how do we maximize every student’s potential for academic success? One way is to practice differentiated instruction. Effective practitioners “acknowledge the reality that students differ in ways that significantly affect their learning” and teach accordingly. Teachers differentiate in a multitude of ways, from modifying content, to helping students create processes that foster deep understanding, to allowing students to “show what they know” differently, to modifying the climate and structure of the classroom.
Differentiated instruction, in its most basic form, is about connecting learners to skills and knowledge on an individual level. Helping children find meaningful success and develop academic excellence is the essential purpose of James River. It starts by knowing every child, and then creating a learning environment that is rich, flexible, and allows for children to pursue their passions.
Learning is, at its core, challenging. Mastering a skill, understanding a complex idea, building a positive mindset -- they each take commitment, time, and teachers who know their students. When students know -- trust -- that their teachers are committed to them as individual learners, the sky’s the limit.
We are in the process of arranging to have Dr. Moon visit the school and talk to parents about differentiated learning and how it can make a difference in every child. I hope you’ll join the conversation.
1 A., Tomlinson Carol. Understanding Differentiated Instruction. ASCD, 2017.