Mittwoch, 20. November 2013

Individualizing and Differentiation - Principles

Its been a while now, but studies have picked up the last week. It is a quite rare occurrence but I also encountered a couple of interesting things. They all centered around one topic, individualizing and differentiation in the classroom.

One of the better seminars I participate now this term is called ‘individualized support’. The seminar itself flew by kind of quickly because we only had it 4-5 times in the last two months. Nonetheless the information we got and had to think about was great. To finish off the seminar we had to think about our personal principles when thinking about individualizing and differentiating in school based on our experiences and what we have talked about in the seminars. Many of the points tie in with the things I got to know in a couple of schools I visited and worked in. These are the things that I wrote down:
- create an environment that suits both the kids and the teacher
- have enough space for learning
- pick up every child where it stands, evaluate status before beginning
- pick appropriate material and methods for the level the child is on at the moment
- make sure to have individual learning goals, while also keeping class goals in mind
- be in constant communication about their progress
- constant adjustment of material based on needs of the children
- know your role as a teacher, sometimes you have to lead, sometimes you to accompany them
- knowledge about methods
- differentiated performance evaluation

These things are certainly core thoughts for anybody who digs deeper into this topic. When we got this task to take down 10 points that are important to us, I went on a step-by-step basis as you can see. As we were talking about the points with our teacher and other students it became clear that not everybody did it that way. For one, it shows again how different people work, it is, one the other hand, a little bit strange that other students teachers didn’t build a sort of ‘program’ with these points, but just jotted them down to talk about them. I feel like it is important to have a guideline of sorts, which is what I had in mind while writing. It obviously depends on how they interpreted the assignment. I think student teachers more often than not need a good guide and guidelines, since that’s why they’re at teacher training. 

But back to the actual list. I have been to a couple of schools now and most of the time the school building, but even more so the classroom, just felt good. They didn’t make you feel constricted, but only very few schools, namely one out of the six schools really had enough space where you would immediately think ‘this is perfect’. If there are session with open learning and individualized methods you definitely need a lot of room, a lot. If you think about yourself, sometimes you like to read a book in your bed, but sometimes it is also nice to read a book while sitting at a table drinking tea. Most of the time in schools though, the kids are made to sit at their desks all day, regardless of the task, I won’t say it is bad per se, but I know I can’t work on certain things while being in a seated position for more than four hours. In that particular school it was amazing to see how different the children looked like while working. Some of them sat on the ground, some of them very on their stomach, others were sitting alone at a desk, some were working together while standing at a desk etc. Seeing scenarios like these make me wonder why it is so common to sit at desks at school all the time, I wouldn’t want all the children in class to become desk-workers, they are hopefully going to spend their working days in various different environments.

A couple of the points are about topics that are in discussion in education all the time anyway; evaluation before you start, evaluation of the progress and testing afterwards. It all seems simple, but these are phases very most damage is done. And it’s not only about evaluating if somebody needs extra help or a specific kind of method, it is also about children who are gifted in a way, they can just as easily be left behind if they don’t get challenged and supported to improve. Unfortunately all evaluation processes hinge very much on how politics view education, schools and the curriculum.

The last thing I’d like to add is the fact that even though many school systems are sometimes limited by politics, it is absolutely valuable for student teachers to know about the right evaluation methods, various progress checks and different testing models. It is also vital to know about didactics and methods in the field of individual learning. It will make your teaching better and yourself better, and allow you to get the most of the situation regardless of the circumstances.

I’d like to close on a fun note with a video that summarizes everything I just said in less than a minute, plus, it shows exactly what it actually looks like, including the disregard for somebody who is ‘different’.

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