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    Onderwijskrant Vlaanderen
    Vernieuwen: ja, maar in continuïteit!
    24-01-2015
    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Onderwijs. differentiation doesn't work- zeker niet in heterogene klassen
    Differentiation doesn't work - zeker niet in heterogene klassen

    Vooraf: Kritische getuigenis omtrent differentiatie van Engels onderwijsminister gisteren op OESO-conferentie: "In November last year, 29 Shanghai teachers made the trip to England, t...o demonstrate how they teach maths to young children. The large majority of Shanghai pupils progress through the curriculum content at the same pace. Differentiation is achieved by emphasising deeper knowledge and through individual support and intervention. The trend for differentiation in England , by contrast, encourages classrooms being divided into groups, with each group taught a separate curriculum."

    Basisideeën uit bijdrage in bijlage

    It seems that, when it comes to differentiation, teachers are either not doing it at all, or beating themselves up for not doing it as well as they're supposed to be doing it. Either way, the verdict is clear: Differentiation is a promise unfulfilled, a boondoggle of massive proportions.

    The biggest reason differentiation doesn't work, and never will, is the way students are deployed in most of our nation's classrooms. Toss together several students who struggle to learn, along with a smattering of gifted kids, while adding a few English-language learners and a bunch of academically average students and expect a single teacher to differentiate for each of them. That is a recipe for academic disaster if ever I saw one. Such an admixture of students with varying abilities in one classroom causes even the most experienced and conscientious teachers to flinch, as they know the task of reaching each child is an impossible one.

    It seems to me that the only educators who assert that differentiation is doable are those who have never tried to implement it themselves: university professors, curriculum coordinators, and school principals. It's the in-the-trenches educators who know the stark reality: Differentiation is a cheap way out for school districts to pay lip service to those who demand that each child be educated to his or her fullest potential.

    Do we expect an oncologist to be able to treat glaucoma? Do we expect a criminal prosecutor to be able to decipher patent law? Do we expect a concert pianist to be able to play the clarinet equally well? No, no, no. However, when the education of our nation's young people is at stake, we toss together into one classroom every possible learning strength and disability and expect a single teacher to be able to work academic miracles with every kid … as long as said teacher is willing to differentiate, of course.

    The sad truth is this: By having dismantled many of the provisions we used to offer to kids on the edges of learning (classes for gifted kids, classes for kids who struggle to learn, and classes for those whose behaviors are disruptive to the learning process of others), we have sacrificed the learning of virtually every student. In the same Fordham Institute report cited earlier, 71 percent of teachers reported that they would like to see our nation rely more heavily on homogeneous grouping of advanced students, while a resounding 77 percent of teachers said that, when advanced students are paired with lower-achieving students for group assignments, it's the smart kids who do the bulk of the work.

    A second reason that differentiation has been a failure is that we're not exactly sure what it is we are differentiating: Is it the curriculum or the instructional methods used to deliver it? Or both? The terms "differentiated instruction" and "differentiated curriculum" are used interchangeably, yet they are not synonyms. Teachers want and need clear guidance on what it is they are supposed to do to reach differentiated Nirvana, yet the messages they receive from the "experts" are far from consistent. No wonder confusion reigns and teachers feel defeated in trying to implement the grand goals of differentiation.

    Differentiation might have a chance to work if we are willing, as a nation, to return to the days when students of similar abilities were placed in classes with other students whose learning needs paralleled their own. Until that time, differentiation will continue to be what it has become: a losing proposition for both students and teachers, and yet one more panacea that did not pan out.
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