As my younger son's pre-school class showed in their 2002 Hallowe'en parade, every student is unique, so the range of learning styles and personalities is infinite. An educator must be able to keep the disparate elements in his class in line and moving forwards while cherishing the differences.
All students can learn and all have their place in the education system. A Place in the Choir, written and performed here by Bill Staines, is a wonderful metaphor for the reasons we need differentiated instruction and assessment. As "choir leader," a teacher must make room for all the critters in his classes and keep them in harmony together.
Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning.
* Teachers deliver effective instruction. They move fluently through a range of instructional techniques, keeping students motivated, engaged and focused.
* They know how to engage students to ensure a disciplined learning environment, and how to organize instruction to meet instructional goals.
* Teachers know how to assess the progress of individual students as well as the class as a whole.
* They use multiple methods for measuring student growth and understanding, and they can clearly explain student performance to parents.
Artifact #1: Differentiated Instruction and Assessment PowerPoint
Rationale Reflection
This artifact is a PowerPoint presentation I created for another master’s class at the University of New England, EDU 610 Differentiation Theory & Strategies. The purpose of the presentation was to explain the basic concepts of differentiated instruction and assessment to a group of peers. I chose to put it into the context the great anxiety in the district over the MCAS (the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Sytem). The PPT file can be accessed HERE. The file is very large (4.5 Mb), but you can see it as a slideshow HERE.

I chose this artifact because it demonstrates my understanding of the principles of differentiated instruction (DI). I believe that an educator who effectively uses these principles in her teaching will meet the requirements of this standard. While a teacher need not practice DI to meet the requirements, one who does will have a palette of teaching and assessment styles and methods available for use. An educator who believes that all students can learn will go to this palette to choose a presentation style that will reach each student.

Similarly, a teacher must have a palette of assessment strategies with which to check a student’s progress. Understanding and mastery can be expressed in many ways, at it is important that a teacher be able to access a variety of methods to measure them.

 

 

Michael Jeneid, Outward Bound instructor and founder of the Boston University S.U.R.G.E program, teaching climbing on Shawangunk Ridge, NY. Michael, who died of cancer in September of 2009, personified the educator who can draw in all sorts of students, keep them engaged, and get them to go to extraordinary lengths, well beyond what they had believed they were capable of. He could observe a student, formulate a way to reach her, and modify his technique on the fly in the most extreme situations to keep an individual, a class, or a patrol on task. Whether working with New York City street toughs and drug addicts, or meek suburban high school students, Michael could fire each student's enthusiasm in a way that at times seemd almost hypnotic. Poet, Royal Marine, author, birder, college professor and athlete, Michael personified the best qualities of the professional educator.

Skill instruction in the outdoors is of necessity differentiated, as no two students will be at the same levels of coordination, physical fitness, and tenacity. Despite these differences, it was my responsibility to assess each student and find a style of instruction that would be most helpful in moving that student forward in his or her learning. Under situations of high physical stress, such as negotiating a rapids or climbing a sheer cliff, these individual traits and responses become exaggerated. The teacher’s responses must be extremely flexible and rapidly retrieved, as often there may be a matter of a few seconds between success and disaster. I found on entering the classroom that the need for flexibility in both instruction and assessment was similar to that required in the outdoor setting. While mistakes did not have the same immediate negative possibilities, I was very aware of how the different personalities of my students affected their learning.

Artifact #2: Letter to a Parent
Rationale Reflection
This artifact, a PDF file HERE, is the draft of a letter that I wrote to the mother of a 1st-grade student with whom I was working over the course of a year. I wanted to bring to the mother a larger sense of what was happening with her child. I chose it because it is an indication of my communication style, specifically how I tried to keep a positive and productive note in a report on a really very difficult and troubled boy. The letter accurately portrays the postitive growth and improvements made by the boy, while mentioning some areas that still needed improvement. The mother was extremely strict and judgemental towards her son, and I felt the positive emphasis of the letter might help her, as well. I never did send the letter, as I had the opportunity to speak with her directly shortly after I wrote it. All names have been changed in this document. While I have had a good deal of experience working with students of all ages, from young children to older adults, this was the first time I had actually had direct communication with a parent. The parent had a reputation for being confrontive and difficult and I was warned about her from several sources. I found that we seemed to get on perfectly well. I don't know if it was anything in particular that I did, but I did try to be direct and respectful at all times. I really liked her child, despite his occasional outbreaks, and came to believe that at least some of his behaviors, described as aggressive, were actually not so. For instance, he had a reputation and had been punished regularly for spitting at people, while I found that he had an excess of drool that would splatter about when he was excited. It may be that it was my acceptance of her son and my respect for her feelings that made my communications with her so friendly and productive.
Artifact #3: Motivational Case Study
Rationale Reflection
This artifact, a PDF file that can be downloaded HERE, is the case study I did of the boy Jimmy mentioned in Artifact #2 for my master's course EDU 615 - Motivational Theory & Classroom Management. I chose it because it relates to my ability to assess the current level and progress of an individual student, based on observation and testing.
Assessment is one of the most important aspects of teaching, and, for me, one of the most difficult. I find it so because I take it very much to heart when a sutdent does not "get it." I feel strongly that there should have been some way for me to break through and reach those students, some way to help them to find a way to understand and succeed. My first experience with instructional failure involved two girls who dropped out of my second Outward Bound course. My co-instructor and I did everything we could think of to get them to stay, but they had separately decided to leave, and we just had to put them on the boat back to the mainland. Since then I have been deeply committed to student success and finding ways to motivate the unenthusiastic, to bring understanding to the lost, and to find ways of fairly assessing mastery of the subject to bring the greatest degree of success to the greatest number of students.