Overview of Article:
The journal article “The promise of differentiated instruction for enhancing the mathematical understandings of college students” by Chamberlin and Powers discusses the results for a study that examined the effects of differentiated instruction on students in a mathematics course at the undergraduate level. This course was for incoming Freshmen and it covered numbers and operations. Two regional institutions were used to compare a total of ten courses, taught by a total of seven instructors. In order to conclude whether differentiated instruction was effective, five of the courses had implemented differentiated instruction, while the remaining five were taught the traditional way and were considered the comparison group. The goal of the study was to answer the following question:
- What impact does differentiated instruction in a college mathematics class have on students’ mathematical understandings?
In all ten courses, the content and assignments were the same, including homework assignments, tests, quizzes, projects, and writing prompts. In addition, a log was kept for each students’ progress and mastery of each individual objective based on assessments. Lastly, a survey was given to the students to get their input on their thoughts on the course. One of the most important overall findings from this study was that differentiating instruction was found to support mathematical learning, and this conclusion was based on both qualitative and quantitative results. Throughout the study, there were seven key lessons learned with regards to the process of implementing differentiated instruction:
- Identify and outline learning objectives for the entire course as early as possible
- Organize the course either by chapters or units
- Not every class or assignment needs to be differentiated-focus on students’ needs
- Start implementing with small assignments
- Have students fill out interest and learning profile surveys
- Implement a variety of instructional methods throughout the semester
- Keep a log of each students’ progress and mastery of each individual objective
Many educators have heard of differentiating instruction and they may know a general idea of what it means and why it may be useful for their students. However, many educators only know the theory behind differentiated instruction and do not have any knowledge of how to properly implement it into the classroom. This happens to be the case in our Capstone Project because we see the need for educators the instructors on how to properly implement this valuable teaching method.
After reading the results of the article, I found myself agreeing with the seven mini lessons, which double as the conclusions of the study. In particular, I agreed with the third lesson, which is to focus on the students’ needs when determining what to differentiate. Luckily, not every single class, assignment, or activity needs to be differentiated. It is important for educators to be aware of this, as some may feel discouraged to bother implementing differentiated instruction because it may appear to be too time-consuming or tedious. By picking and choosing assignments or activities to differentiate, educators can feel less stressed and can focus on making those few assignments even better without feeling overwhelmed. In addition, the fourth lesson also helps to de-stress educators because it has them focus on small assignments and implementing differentiated instruction at a gradual pace. By starting off small and pacing themselves, educators can ease into the idea of implementing until it becomes second nature to them.
In the article, it was mentioned that keeping a log of each individual student’s progress may sound tedious, but that eventually it only takes 10 minutes to complete every day. It seems that educators get the impression that differentiating instruction is daunting, difficult, and time-consuming. This, ultimately, may be the reason why many educators do not implement it themselves. However, this article shows that it is beneficial to students in the higher education setting and that it is doable. The seven lessons provided as a conclusion are, in my opinion, spot on and can help educators see that the task is possible. It does take some time and effort, but I personally believe it is worth it if students can benefit from it.
In our professional development, my partner and I will be sure to include the seven lessons learned from the results of the study in order to help give them some general pointers and tips. Some ideas of implementing these lessons are to either include them in a presentation or to have the participants discuss them and why these lessons are, in fact, important. A third idea is to write out the lessons and to give them to the participants, almost like a party favor, so that they could leave the professional development with these key ideas to bear in mind, especially when they are struggling or are feeling doubtful.
Chamberlin, M., & Powers, R. (2010). The promise of differentiated instruction for enhancing the mathematical understandings of college students. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications, 29(3), 113-139. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/pzHXMv