Overview of Article
Mathematics educators are trained to respond to the unique needs in the K-12 setting regarding abilities, interests, learning preferences, and background. In order to do so, differentiated instruction has been utilized to address these many diversities in the classroom because there is substantial literature supporting effective student learning when this technique is implemented. As the diversity in the class increases with student development, the typical one-size-fits all teacher-centered model of instruction sets students up for failure. Therefore, there is a definite need to teach students differently such that their diversities are addressed. Differentiated instruction, a student-center approach, has proven to be successful in qualitative studies. The purpose of the current study is to explore the implementation of differentiated instruction in higher education to determine if qualitative improvements existed by comparing them non-differentiated classrooms. This study found that the differentiated instruction groups significantly outperformed the non-differentiated instruction groups on assignments and exams, which served as the objective data collected. In addition, and possibly more importantly, the students reported knowing the material on a “deeper level” via course evaluations and survey questions, as they described feeling that differentiated instruction was a beneficial learning model.
I believe it is ironic how this age group of students can be viewed as more diverse than K-12 students, yet there is less consideration for their life and educational experiences. Even so, with the presence of diverse adult learners, there have been few modifications made to the teaching methods that are present in the undergraduate classrooms. It is for this reason that my partner and I chose this topic. This resource will be used as part of literature supporting the effectiveness of differentiated instruction in the college setting. In our lessons, we will describe that in order for changes to be made, the instructor must first understand the student mindset and what it means for learners to respond to instruction differently (as demonstrated in this study). As educators, part of our job is to relay the material in such a way that students learn. The students are already aware that the instructor knows that material; content knowledge is only partly the “battle.” The majority of this feat is the teaching aspect. Each learner comes to class with a very different skill set, attitude, and experience. It is part of the teaching-job to take all of these aspects into consideration in order to meet the learner’s educational needs. This study mentioned the three personal characteristics of students in their academics as readiness, interest, and learning profile. To be honest, I could not agree more. In order to see the most complete portrait of a student and his unique qualities he brings to class, these aspects must be clearly identified. Subsequently, characteristics of these aspects inform practice, which allows the teacher to differentiate content, process, and “product and affect” (Dosch & Zidon, 2014).
In retrospect, during my student teaching practicum, I would give my students choices. They would enjoy the lesson or project because they were able to make their own selections on what they wanted to do based on their abilities. The current study supports the concept of choice; “choice in product appears to have had a strong impact on aggregate score differences between differentiated instruction and non-differentiated instruction groups” (Dosch & Zidon, 2014). In addition to having a student-centered and constructivists approach, differentiated instruction takes a more holistic view of the student, as examined by the study. This is verbatim to the Director’s mission and philosophy for developmental math—it only makes sense that if the mission is to look at the student holistically, then the best way to attain this goal is to use practices that foster it. I think what is most important to remember is that differentiation is not only a technique, but it is also a responsive and professional mindset, as explained in this study. It took me a few minutes to understand the gravity of this concept and what a strong message this sends; therefore, this is the message we wish to convey in the workshop we are designing. Through ongoing formative and summative assessments, as well as continuous reflection, the instructor will know the students in many different ways. Ultimately, differentiation could mean the difference between success and failure for students. In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative for all educators, especially those teaching in the college level, to recognize their responsibility of ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn. The course material should be accessible to everyone in such a way that their needs and learning styles are met. Ultimately, I want to use this resource as proof of the responsibility of learning being two-fold—it belongs to both the educator and the student—and how an altered mindset on differentiated instruction incorporates can change education.
Dosch, M. & Zidon, M. (2014). “The course fit us”: Differentiated instruction in the college classroom. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 26(3). 343-357.