Reflections

Paulina’s Final Peer Feedback Presentation Reflection

During our final class, my partner and I had received peer feedback on our third artifact and our final project presentation, both of which were PowerPoint presentations. After showing the third artifact, which was on different techniques, strategies, and implementation methods of differentiated instruction, our peers had mentioned that the entire presentation was cohesive due to the color scheme and the fonts used. When creating this presentation, my partner and I decided on a more subtle color scheme, so we went with black, white, blue, green, and purple in order to have a more cool tone to the presentation. We had a few occasional pops of color, but it was not drastic enough that it was an eye sore and took away from the presentation.

In addition, our peers liked the general flow of the presentation and the variety within the slide designs. Some were just pictures, others were quotes, and some were a mix between the two. This choice was made in order to add interest to the slides and to keep the viewers’ attention. The images used on the slides were all high quality, intriguing, and tied in with the subject of each slide. Other than the quotes, text was limited to keep the viewers’ attention on the presenters. Because my partner and I used high quality images, the file size for the presentation was very large, making it difficult to share via email. Some suggestions on how to fix this problem included posting the presentation on Slideshare, converting the presentation to a PDF, or compressing the images in PowerPoint to make them smaller, thereby making the overall file size smaller.

After viewing the PowerPoint for the final project presentation, similar comments were made regarding the general look, style, and flow of the presentation. It was much shorter in terms of slides and some of the slides had been repeated/recycled from the third artifact. Our peers had said this was a good idea, especially since they liked those slides. Overall, the final presentation was said to look concise, professional, and clean. The fonts that were used were basic fonts that would be a stock font on every computer, thereby not running the risk of being altered on a different operating system or computer.

When discussing the presentation in general, my partner and I had mentioned wanting to show our Powtoon video, which is our second artifact, at the end of the presentation if time permits. Our peers had said this was a great idea because they enjoyed our video and thought it was short enough to be able to include within the presentation. Lastly, a final suggestion was to back up the presentation, especially since there have been instances in the past with files being deleted and with computers not wanting to work. Overall, my partner and I are excited about our final presentation and our end product and cannot wait to present it!

Tara’s Final Peer Feedback Presentation Reflection

Once we completed our finalized capstone project, we had one class period where my partner and I received peer feedback on what we are going to present to the committee. My partner and I were not sure if we were going to do a PowerPoint presentation, or if we would show our finalized project through our WordPress site. Upon reflection, we decided to create a small PowerPoint presentation to keep us on track because we both know we will be nervous.

Our peers gave us feedback on our third artifact (strategies of implementing  differentiated instruction PowerPoint) and our capstone presentation (short summary of our project as a whole); the feedback we received on both of these PowerPoint presentations were similar. Our peers noted that our PowerPoints are professional, clean, and utilized clear fonts. My partner and I used as minimal words as possible because we want the focus to be on us; this is a presentation aid, not the entire presentation, itself. Instead, we used high quality images that relates to what we are going to say (also in the notes section). With the use of high quality images, however, comes the effect of having a large PowerPoint file and the need to condense it using Slide Share or converting it to a PDF. When my partner and I discussed this, we decided Slide Share would not be compatible, as we have landscape slides. It might cut off some of the images in our backgrounds, and they would lose their effectiveness. Therefore, we are going to try to convert it to a PDF, but we need to make sure that the images do not become too pixelated.

For our presentation, we are going to make sure we back-up our work on a flash drive and via email. One of my education professors always mentioned “Technology can and will malfunction—and always at the wrong time!” If we have multiple back-ups, we will have piece of mind knowing that we have alternate plans, no matter what occurs. It is also because of this fact, that we decided to use fonts in our PowerPoints that are compatible for all computers (nothing that is overly fancy or needs to be downloaded). The simplicity of choice continues to put the focus on the presenters, which is our ultimate goal! My partner and I are anxious to present to the committee, but we are excited to show everyone our final product because we have worked so hard on it. We are proud of what we accomplished.

Paulina’s Journal Article Reflection #2

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:

  1. Identify and outline learning objectives for the entire course as early as possible
  2. Organize the course either by chapters or units
  3. Not every class or assignment needs to be differentiated-focus on students’ needs
  4. Start implementing with small assignments
  5. Have students fill out interest and learning profile surveys
  6. Implement a variety of instructional methods throughout the semester
  7. Keep a log of each students’ progress and mastery of each individual objective

Reflection:

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.

References:

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

Tara’s Journal Article Reflection #2

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.

Reflection

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.

Reference

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.

 

Paulina’s Design Decisions Reflection

After developing and designing the professional development workshop, my partner and I received feedback from our peers. Unlike the feedback on our Needs Assessment, which was provided online, the feedback on our design was during class. This allowed for us to bounce ideas off of each other and to come up with multiple solutions, which was very helpful in the long run because I think we got more out of the experience. With the Needs Assessment, there was more praise than constructive criticism, which may help boost someone’s ego, but does not necessarily help improve the portion of the capstone project. However, the feedback to the Design Decisions was much more constructive and our peers gave us many pointers to look out for.

Initially, my partner and I had planned six separate training sessions, which were planned to span six weeks (one training session every week). However, it was brought to our attention that it may be difficult for all of the participants to dedicate six straight weeks to workshops. Instead, we were advised to break it up into either 2 weeks (3 sessions combined each week) or 3 weeks (2 sessions combined each week). However, we went with neither of the two options because my partner and I had a general idea of how long we were planning to have each training session. As a final decision, we decided to combine the first two sessions, keep the third session separate, combine the fourth and fifth sessions, and keep the final session separate, which would total four weeks. The rest of the class agreed to this modification and thought it was a good idea to keep certain sessions separate and to combine others.

Because some of the sessions were to be combined, this brought up a new issue of the sessions being too long. We came to a conclusion to include breaks in the lengthier training sessions to let the participants breath and relax for a bit. With the help of the class, my partner and I were able to decide which two training sessions we wanted to develop more in-depth, as well as what artifacts we would create for these training sessions. My partner and I decided to expand the third and fifth training sessions, even though we had originally planned on expanding just the sixth session due to its length and overall goal. The overall design of the professional development was geared around providing the participants with enough knowledge and information for them to apply what they learned into creating something of their own. In this case, they would apply their knowledge on differentiating instruction to create a lesson plan that was varied enough in instruction to accommodate all types of learners and abilities. My partner and I saw the value in the final training session, which is why we had initially wanted it as the lesson to develop. However, it was mentioned by our peers that it may be difficult to create artifacts for this training session because so much of it relies on the participants rather than the facilitators. As for artifacts, we had decided to create a puzzle using case-based scenarios for the third training session and a PowerPoint presentation for the fifth training session. In addition, we had gotten the option of creating a third artifact to enhance the professional development, so my partner and I had initially decided to create an infographic, but later decided to create a PowToon video.

Lastly, we had discussed assessments, both formative and summative, because the participants are still learning something and they need to be assessed to see if the goals and objectives of the professional development were met. Therefore, we had discussed the different options for assessments and had decided on discussions and observations being our formative assessment and the final lesson plan and the “L” portion of the KWL chart being the summative assessments. Discussions play a major role in the professional development, as my partner and I believe it is important for the participants to share experiences and their own thoughts with each other. This will also help raise questions that we can address as a whole group. In addition, there will be some collaborative portions of the professional development, such as think-pair-share, modeling, and jigsaw methods, which will help my partner and I to observe how the participants are working together and to see what they struggle with. The lesson plan that the participants will create is designed to be a final project and final assessment of what they had learned from the professional development. They will use this knowledge to create a lesson plan in pairs that uses multiple differentiated instruction practices. Lastly, the KWL chart will help both my partner and I to see and the participants to see the progression of their knowledge and to see what they initially knew and how their understanding has grown. All of these assessments were decided upon as a class, and it was very beneficial for us to get feedback from our peers because they asked us questions and gave us suggestions that we did not consider, allowing us to improve and cultivate our professional development. It also showed us how what we could have initially thought were good ideas could be turned into great ideas, which is the whole purpose of getting feedback from peers and listening to their constructive criticism!

Tara’s Design Decisions Reflection

In the class my partner and I are creating this project for, all students in the class work together to discuss and brainstorm potential ideas for each other’s capstone projects. In doing so, the conversations we had for the other students in my class were equally as helpful as the discussion we had pertaining to my project. My partner and I went last, so by the time we shared our initial design decisions, we were already in the mindset of thinking about the strategies we plan on using, breakdown of the topic, types of assessments, and evaluation ideas. Before class, my partner and I spent a few hours researching and planning what our workshop would look like. We made a two column graphic organizer outlining the topics, training, and knowledge needed for the learners to be able create and implement lessons using differentiated instruction. Then, on the other side, we discussed the strategies and techniques we would use in order to meet each lesson’s objectives. Therefore, before coming into class, we had a well-thought and laid-out plan.

Initially, my partner and I discussed having a full day of professional development on a Friday because most of the instructors who teach Developmental Mathematics do not teach classes on this day. However, upon further review, we remembered that one of the instructors teaches at a public middle school during the day. As such, planning for a Friday would not be a good day for this training. In class, my partner and I mentioned doing a full Saturday workshop because we felt weeknights would be difficult with everyone’s schedules. We also felt that after a long day of work, the learners may not be in the best mindset to learn and be attentive to the training. When discussing this with our professor, she gave us feedback on being careful on doing all-day trainings on Saturdays because it starts infringing on people’s personal lives. For this training, it is important for all of the learners to attend because each lesson is essential, and they will be working together and sharing experiences/ideas. Upon reflection and discussion, we agreed on a total of four training days at the institution, but each professional development day would be shorter in length with brunch served (food always makes things better!). We feel this setup would be beneficial because the learners would be able to come the familiar environment, receive the necessary training, and then be able to have the remainder of their days with their families. In addition, we thought the learners would put their best attitude and work forward if we ask them to come for a few hours. As a current student who has taken all-day Saturday and Sunday weekend classes, when instruction days are long, it is only natural for there to be a “slump” (many times, I would leave with a migraine). As such, the learners will most likely not put forth their best work, be reflective while learning, or have the appropriate mindset to be completely receptive of the lessons.

When my partner and I were developing the lessons out, we decided we would completely build out the last lesson/training day (lesson 6) because we felt it was what the entire workshop is building up to; it is the lesson where the overall goal is met. As trained educators, my partner and I are cognizant of the importance of theory and practical implementation (which is exactly what the learners will be doing in this lesson). However, when we were discussing the artifacts needed for this project, our professor mentioned that even though this lesson is a great one, it may not be the best one when implementing and creating our artifacts. The more we discussed it, the clearer it became: we should let go of our idea and choose other lessons to develop. Even though we had our intentions set on the last lesson, we decided to develop lesson 3 and lesson 5 because we can create a PowerPoint presentation and use case-based scenarios. So far, I think what is most important about this process is being able to listen to others’ inputs and being flexible. Upon leaving class, my partner and I felt productive and prepared for what is to come!

Paulina’s Needs Assessment Reflection

After receiving feedback from our peers on our needs assessment, it was clear that many of them had made similar comments and gave feedback that was aligned with what my partner and I had noticed when conducting our needs assessment. For instance, many of our peers had mentioned the importance of the professional development for the Developmental Mathematics team at Seton Hall University. Even though these instructors have been teaching for several years, they are not necessarily trained in education and have no educational background. This is why they know the theory behind differentiated instruction, but have no experience or knowledge on how to actually implement it, which is the purpose of the professional development. Even though it was mentioned that it is odd that many of the instructors are uneducated in their teaching method, I believe this is because the setting is a university. Most educators at the higher education level are not necessary trained in educating because their education has been in the subject matter that they teach. Unfortunately, this is a flaw in the system, as I believe all educators, regardless of what or where they teach, should be educated in how to educate. This is why I personally believe this professional development is, up to a point, crucial for these instructors to experience.

In addition to comments about the instructors, our peers had given feedback on the types of questions asked in both the survey portion and in the face-to-face interviews. According to our peers, the questions were simple enough for the instructors to answer, but detailed enough to receive appropriate responses. Additionally, the face-to-face interview questions were said to have been very specific, which was the initial thought process that my partner and I were designing the questions. One critique about a question we had asked was to make the question that asked “In your experience, have you come across a pattern in regards to the range of variation of abilities between students enrolled in Developmental Mathematics across the semesters?” more open ended. The intentions were to avoid creating yes/no questions, but my partner and I were fortunate enough to have a group of instructors who elaborated on every question, regardless of what it was asking.

Lastly, there was a recommendation made to integrate problem-based learning and flipped-classroom strategies into our professional development. However, although these techniques can be used to differentiate instruction, they would only be mentioned in passing as potential possibilities of differentiation. My partner and I still have a list of goals and objectives to create, but we will keep this recommendation in mind when creating and designing our agenda for the professional development. Overall, it seems as though my partner and I were able to get a substantial amount of information from the Developmental Mathematics team in order to identify the need to provide them with professional development on differentiating instruction. The overall goal and intention of this professional development will be to help individualize instruction, especially for those who are on the extreme ends of the ranges of ability so that all of the Developmental Mathematics students can benefit from instruction equally.

Tara’s Needs Assessment Reflection

Upon receiving feedback on our needs assessment, the majority of my peers made similar comments regarding my audience members. In analyzing the results, it is interesting to discover that all of the instructors, who are a part of the Developmental Mathematics Team, are completely qualified to teach the course, but the majority of them lack the educational background needed for implementing different teaching techniques fitting the students’ needs. My partner and I are fortunate enough to have audience members who are flexible and willing to learn something new—even if it means creating more work for them. Of times, we see teachers and professors create a lesson and reuse it from year to year. It is common for instructors to make minor changes to the lesson the next time they teach it, but major changes are often unheard of (this was one of the questions asked while conducting the needs analysis). I think what is special about the group of people our capstone project is being designed for is that all of them truly believe in this program; they have all been instructors for many years, and they see what this program can push students to do and develop into. I firmly believe all of the instructors included in this workshop genuinely want what is best for their students, and they are willing to make the necessary changes to make their instruction better in order to make the program better. The entire team mentioned they could see this class as the class to implement differentiated instruction in because it is logical given their population of students. Additionally, the instructors of the Developmental Mathematics Team are generally receptive to change. The program just went through a curriculum modification and program upgrade, so instructors are currently in the transition from using the MyMathLab program that was implemented for many years to the newer, more interactive program.

It was clear that all of the participants saw a pattern in students across years and semesters, saw a need for differentiated instruction to be implemented in the class, and realized they needed the knowledge to do so. All of the members were aware of the strategy and realized the amount of students who would benefit from this type of instruction because it perfectly fits the model and philosophy of this class, which incorporates a holistic approach. I believe the participants were honest about their methods and philosophies of teaching; both my partner and I have assisted them in their classes, so we were already aware of the strategies the instructors use on a daily basis. With any type of form, it is easy for a person to have certain biases, but I believe the responses were truthful and representative of who they are as instructors (despite it being it was anonymous).

An improvement that could have been made to our needs analysis pertains to one of the questions asked during the initial baseline data survey (Google Forms). The question, which could have been worded better, was, “In your experience, have you come across a pattern in regards to the range of variation of abilities between students enrolled in Developmental Mathematics across the semesters?” When creating questions, my partner and I tried to avoid using yes or no questions because we wanted to get the most information possible, however, the way this question is phrased did not reflect our efforts. Luckily, all of the participants responded with the types of patterns they have noticed from teaching this course with detailed explanations, not just a single word answer. As such, even with this mistake, it was not detrimental to our results because we still attained the necessary information to make the proper recommendations. This needs analysis, along with my peers’ critiques, show the clear need for training instructors in differentiated instruction, which can only be attributed to the open-mindedness of the Developmental Mathematics Team.

Paulina’s Journal Article Reflection #1

Overview of Article:

The journal article “The Application of Differentiated Instruction in Postsecondary Environments: Benefits, Challenges, and Future Directions” by Santangelo and Tomlinson discusses the results of a self-study that examined the effects of differentiated instruction in a graduate level course. In this course, called Education and Psychology of Exceptional Learners, the students were very diverse in terms of interests, readiness, and learning profiles. The goal of the study was to answer the following questions:

  1. How does differentiated instruction impact the students’ progress in terms of the course objectives?
  2. What do the students think about differentiated instruction?
  3. What specific strategies and conditions need to be in place in order to achieve positive outcomes?

One of the most important findings from this study was that differentiated instruction is possible and achievable in the postsecondary setting, as it has mainly been studies in the elementary and secondary education levels. Santangelo and Tomlinson also found that the integrity of the course was not compromised, even though all 25 students had an individualized framework of the course. Although differentiating instruction is time consuming and tedious, all of the students in the course were able to “find meaning and relevance in the course content and activities,” and those concepts are the ultimate goal of teaching (Santangelo & Tomlinson, 2009). Students were able to find the class meaningful because the instructor took each students’ interests, goals, experiences, and needs into consideration when differentiating the instruction. Lastly, assessments were individualized, which provided the students with the opportunity to showcase their learning and understanding through methods that were best suited for them and their learning experiences.

Reflection:

As educators, we know how important the content is for our students to know, especially at the postsecondary level. At this point, students primarily take classes that teach them skills and provide them with knowledge that they will be using in their future careers and lives. However, the issue many students face is having the same type of structure in every single classroom while in college. Up until this point, these students have been in classrooms that incorporated various teaching styles, activities, and strategies in order to help them learn the content in meaningful ways. Now why is it that this stops at the postsecondary level?

According to Santangelo and Tomlinson, the number of adult learners in postsecondary schools is increasing, as is the number of students with disabilities; as of 2005, 11.4% of undergraduates were comprised of students with disabilities and this number continues to rise (2009). Everyone knows that we are all different, so why are all students taught the same way? Students have different interests, needs, experiences, learning styles, and abilities. I have seen firsthand with my students a wide range of abilities and learning styles and what works for one student may not necessarily work for the rest of the class. It is important for us to be able to individualize instruction so that students find meaning in what they are learning, as this leads to intrinsic motivation, which is very strong in adult learners. Some students have a more difficult time with material, so they may need to slow down or have additional resources provided. On the other end of the spectrum, some students may feel as though they are not getting anything out of the class because they are not being challenged enough. By providing these types of students with more challenging material, we are increasing their engagement and interest, which helps to enrich the curriculum for them.

In the Developmental Mathematics Program, there is a large range of abilities and students are diverse in terms of their socioeconomic statuses, race, prior mathematical knowledge, learning styles, and intrinsic motivation levels. The students who take Developmental Mathematics are those who did not pass the Mathematics Placement Exam prior to attending the university. Because some of the students did not take the exam seriously, they are also in this mix of students, along with those who actually struggle with math. Therefore, there is a large range of abilities in this program.

In terms of curriculum, it is constantly being revised to meet the needs of the students and what they will need in their future math classes and future careers. At this point, it is not so much the curriculum that needs to be differentiated, but the way it is presented can be. A traditional higher education classroom typically has a lecture style that runs the entire class time. Although this method can be useful at times, it is not suitable for every student. By differentiating the way we hold our lessons and present the material, we can help meet the needs of the students by incorporating activities, assignments, projects, and assessments that are specially designed for our students, which can help engage them. Because of its wide range of students, the Developmental Mathematics Program can greatly benefit from training on how to differentiate instruction to fit the needs of individual students. Many of the teachers in the program do not have educational backgrounds, so it would be difficult for them to be able to incorporate it without any background knowledge or theory on the practice without professional development.

References:

Santangelo, T. & Tomlinson, C. A. (2009). The application of differentiated instruction in postsecondary environments: Benefits, challenges, and future directions. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(3), 307-323. Retrieved from http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE366.pdf

Tara’s Journal Article Reflection #1

Overview of Article

Differentiating instruction is described as a method of instruction that addresses the variations of students within the classroom, while at the same time maximizing each learner’s potential. In Joseph’s study, the use of differentiated instruction in the higher education setting is explored to determine if it enhanced student learning at a university over the course of one semester (2013). Strategies for differentiating and modifying content and processes were examined in three ways, which includes response to students’ readiness, learning profiles, and student interests. Higher levels of intellectual growth were reported as a result of differentiated instruction, which validates previous research (Ernst & Ernst, 2005); it is important to note that differentiated instruction has been extensively studied in elementary and secondary education, but there is little literature about differentiated instruction being implemented in tertiary education (Joseph, 2013). This study found the importance of choice as a crucial component of differentiating instruction with adult learners because they feel a sense of empowerment when deciding on their own activities, materials, and assessments. As such, the feeling of empowerment peaked student interest, intrinsic motivation, and engagement for all students in the classroom, including diverse learners. There are some challenges professors face in the classroom when implementing this strategy because it is not the traditional teaching approach in the higher education setting, however, the findings of Joseph’s study in addition to previous research shows the need for differentiating instruction and the need to incorporate students’ readiness, interests, and learning profiles for college students’ educations (Joseph, 2013).

Reflection

American adult educator, Knowles, asserts adult learners learn differently from child learners. As such, a different type of education should be provided. In pedagogy, a subject-centered approach is still stressed, even with the shift towards a student-centered approach (Joseph, 2013). In andragogy, learning should problem-centered because adults learn best when they are able to use their skills, knowledge, and experiences. This model operates with the rationale that adult learners are self-motivated, want to learn, have relevant experiences, and seek practical information. Therefore, the way differentiated instruction is implemented is aligned with Knowles’ theory. The instructors of Developmental Math Program should use this information and the teach the class in a way such that the ways their students learn are considered.

In my classroom, I see that all of my adult students learn differently, which should reflect in my teaching. It is common knowledge that no two learners learn the same way, however, the traditional model teaching is still utilized in many classrooms in the higher education setting. Each student’s readiness and learning profile is also different, which means instructors need to provide appropriately challenging experiences for the students and different modes to do so. With the implementation of this technique, it would allow my students to use real life examples and experiences that are meaningful to them. This concept of making the course personally meaningful is especially important to my population of students because their successes and failures of this course will affect their future courses, graduation date, and overall outlook on learning. This journal article included student testimonials that express their feelings towards their class after instruction was differentiated. The students mentioned they enjoyed class, felt relaxed, and felt they were able to learn better. Students who are introverted and typically do not talk in class were engaged and participated in the study with the implementation of this teaching technique (Joseph, 2013). I have experienced that many times the student who is more of an introvert is “missed” because they are overshadowed by students who ask questions. Additionally, it difficult for a professor to “force” a student to talk if he or she does not want to; even so, part of our teaching philosophies should not be to “force” a student to do anything. His or her participation should be due to intrinsic motivators, the concept of feeling he or she has something valuable to contribute, and the idea his or her ideas in addition the group’s ideas will develop into something larger than what would have developed individually.

I believe the major obstacle with differentiating instruction in the Developmental Math Program is not in the “concept” doing so in the classroom, but in the training that is required to implement it efficiently within the parameters of the class. The concept of differentiating instruction is accepted in the program in regards to differentiating the material by ability and tracking, but instructors may not be completely aware of how to make this theory practical; there are ways to differentiate the topic, activities, and assessments, not just the material. Students need different resources and texts, different groups with similar learning profiles, tasks, and choices such that they can be an advocate for their own education. I feel that in order to do so, the instructors of developmental math need to be united in gathering student data, allow choices and different groupings, and use different modes of instruction throughout the semester. While the class is structured, the instructors do have some flexibility of the class activities. Additionally, the Developmental Math Program tries to look at each student holistically, which is in line with how differentiated instruction looks at learning and the students; therefore, this concept fits perfectly with its mission statement. Students are taught to look at problems and situations in multiple ways, which is exactly how math should be. However, without the proper training, the benefits of truly differentiating instruction will never be achieved. As such, the Developmental Math Program needs professional development on this teaching technique.

References:

Ernst, H.R. & Ernst, T.L. (2005). The promise and pitfalls of differentiated instruction for undergraduate political sciences courses: Student and instructor impressions of an unconventional teaching strategy. Journal of Political Science Education, 1(1), 39-59.

Joseph, S. (2013). Strategies for enhancing student learning experiences in higher education. Caribbean Teaching Scholar, 3(2), 97-109.