The dialogue will be used either as an entry behaviour
to assess the pupils’ previous knowledge or as a starter in the lesson while
determining the actual development of the child (Appendices A, B and C). A step
further will then be applied through explanation by modelling, grouping or peer
collaboration, differentiated task, questioning or dialoguing the outcome of
the task (Appendices A, B and C). This will help the child to move from the
actual development to the higher level of his potential as well as give me a
feedback on the scaffolding required if the child is yet to reach the ZPD.
In the midst of my activities in class, I will also be
conscious of when to remove the scaffolding in order to allow a level of
independence in task challenge. I will take into consideration that there could
be a contrast between scaffolding and differentiation in my class so I will be
sensitive when a particular pupil requires a completely different task but
still related to the main one (Baumann et al., 1997).
Since knowledge is built through social interaction as
indicated by my approach, I will encourage collaboration among learners but
making sure that the high achievers are challenged even in group tasks by
engaging them in more sophisticated levels of dialogue while giving detailed
explanations in simple terms for low ability pupils (BBCactive.com, undated).
Lastly, my assessment technique will be an ongoing and
flexible technique so that I can provide an alternative support where there is
a shortfall. This will give me the afforded opportunity to understand pupil’s
individual, as well as their collective zones of proximal development (ZPD) so
I can differentiate and scaffold effectively (ibid undated).
Critical Evaluation of Differentiated Approches in my Lessons
“The use of the one-size-fits all curriculum” has
really lost its relevance in the 21st century classroom (Subban,
The type of learning that the teacher wants to give in
her classroom would determine the learning styles to be practised in her
classroom (Coffey 2011 cited in Dillon and Maguire, 2011, p 202).
In my opinion, a consciousness of these learning styles
does not necessitate exploration of individual learner’s styles or
intelligences as identified by Gardner (1983) ; Rather, I believe that helping
each child to develop a degree of liberty, self-reliance and awareness through
a well prepared scope of teaching and learning practice in the class is the key
to success. The scope I am referring to here is differentiation.
My lessons were delivered through differentiated
approach involving task, dialogue and outcome strategy using the scaffolding
and ZPD theory.
For the scaffolding and differentiation to be very
effective in my lessons, I started by understanding the pupils’ individual and
collective ZPD in order to ensure that the lesson is relevant and meaningful
for attainment of objectives stated (Tomlinson, 2003).
The first step in my lesson sequence was assessing the
pupils’ previous knowledge bearing in mind that children come into the
classroom with different mind-sets so the philosophy of KUD (What we want students
to know, understand and do) were followed in my lesson sequence (Ibid, 2003).
My entry behaviour in the three lessons taught were
aimed at assessing the pupils’ previous knowledge through questioning,
dialoguing and discussions. (Appendices A, B and C). This facilitated problem
solving as it gave me the room to differentiate the pupils, taking note of the
pupils that needed more explanation in its simplest terms and those that will
be engaged in more critical thinking (BBC active undated). This gave me an
overview of the high, medium, and low ability group as well as their readiness
to learn without having to depend on their teacher’s assessment (Tomlinson
My lessons sequence (Appendices A, B, C) followed the
principles of planning and preparation in the context of DFES, (2002 cited in
The starter for the three lessons were aimed to spark
up the children’s prior knowledge and their experiences. This worked well in
Creative Writing and Social Studies classes (Appendices B, C) but failed for
some children in the comprehension class (Appendix A). About three children
could not say anything unique about themselves. This worked against one of the differentiated
checklist that activities should be equally interesting (Tomlinson 2001).
Wood et al. (1976) posits that certain processes help
effective scaffolding. These include gaining and maintaining the learner’s
interest in the task, making the task simple, emphasising certain aspects that
will help with the solution, controlling the child’s level of frustration and
demonstrating the task. With these points in mind, I had to support the
children through dialoguing, peer modelling and questioning in order to give equal interest and match
their needs so they can achieve success in that activity that they could not do
alone (Wood and Middleton 1975). However, only one of the three children was
able to achieve the task through the scaffolding.
The sequence of my lesson also put into consideration
different learning styles, interests and experiences of the learners (Bearne,
E. 1996) as differentiation is all about equity of opportunity so planning will
involve different activities which values personal style and their preferred
mode of participation (Coffey 2011 cited in Dillon and Maguire, 2011, p
203).The Creative Writing class (Appendix B) and Social Studies class (appendix
C) were taught with the use of videos, PowerPoint presentation and flashcards.
The Social Studies class (Appendix C) also had role playing task where the
children acted the different types of government. The resources used above
provided an interesting and enthusiastic atmosphere as the willingness and zeal
to participate in the lesson was clearly seen.
Tomlinson and McTighe (2006 cited in Least, p 10) shows
that attending to the interest of children increases willingness and motivation.
This accounted for the enthusiasm seen even in the low ability group as it is
common for children to tilt towards tasks or ideas that interest them (ibid, p 10).
The Social Studies class (Appendix C) excelled in line with the stated
objectives in terms of the task and outcome. The children collaborated in their
different groups to act out the different types of government. The synergy
between HA, MA and LA brought a desired outcome as the children could explain
the different types of government as was seen during the formative assessment
through dialoguing and questioning.
Although two of the LA ability children were supported
constantly through mentoring, modelling their character in the play,
questioning and dialoguing, they were able to reach their ZPD in the lesson.
The class collaboration was excellently handled by each group’s representatives
during their class presentation. However, it is worth to note that two of LA
ability were not able to answer questions during discussions and dialoguing but
excelled in the acting and role playing. This approach explained the topic better
to them as they reached the expected outcome by explaining the types of the
government to the class during plenary. Hence, I was able to ascertain that Hodgen,
J (2011 cited in Dillon and Maguire, 2011) argument that collaborative work,
discussion and modelling through peer monitoring produces result. Also, the
success of the lesson can be attributed to the skill on my part as the teacher
through a well thought out differentiation of task and dialogue in the lesson
planning produces the key to success (Hallam and Ireson, 2005 cited in Dillon
and Maguire, 2011).
The comprehension class (Appendix A) had its shortfall
not only in starter but also during the shared reading. Vygotsky (1978)
suggested that task below or above a pupils’ level of understanding or
comprehension would either not be challenging or discourage the pupils.
The shared reading in Literacy class (Appendix A)
showed that some of the words were above the MA and LA group ability and posed
a challenge during the task. Though I continuously supported them to achieve
the expected outcome which is reading fluently and answering the questions from
the passage read, it didn’t encourage enthusiasm and of course yielded minimal
result. I should have listed the difficult words, pronounced and explained them
before the shared reading rather than that, I made a quick grouping with the
assumption that collaboration and peer mentoring will work while I scaffold from
time to time as I move from one group to the other. To my surprise, the
grouping affected the MA group negatively as I discovered that they were not
willing to collaborate. They neither gave help nor asked for it (Askew and
William 1995 cited in Dillon and Maguire, 2011). I had to revert to doing what
I would have done earlier in the lesson which was listing the new and difficult
words, pronouncing and finding the meaning of the word with them. The lesson
objectives and the expected outcome were never met as I ran out of time for the
On the other hand, the Creative Writing class (Appendix
B) was very successful as the children were happy working on their assigned
task. They also achieved the objectives
and produced expected outcome. This was possible because of timely
implementation of “Plan B” which is differentiating their tasks by giving
allowance for the pupils to make a choice of item to advertise without
restricting them to advertising a beauty product as indicated in the lesson
plan. Coffey (2011 cited in Dillon and Maguire, 2011, p 203) states that task
differentiation usually means modifying resources in some way to provide more
or less support (Scaffolding) to groups within a class and Bearne, E. (1996
cited in Pollard, A. (Ed.) 2014) opines that the challenge to the teacher is to
find a task that cannot only stretch all learners but provide ways too that
will support the learner to achieve the objectives.
The plan for the lesson was changed as a result of
questioning and dialoguing with the children during the lesson as meaningful
conversations between teachers and pupils with guided problem solving skill can
assist them reach their goal through critical thinking . This brought about the
expected outcome at the end of the lesson (Ankrum, J. 2014).
Vygotsky (1978) opines that learning generally takes
place when support is given as the child works within his or her Zone of
Proximal Development. This assistance or social mediation helps the learner
incorporate the expected outcome, concepts and strategies.
Throughout my lessons, I supported the pupils to
actualize the stated objectives. In my own assessment, the lesson in (Appendix
C) was very successfully with the children forming a song to remember the
different types of government and their features. This was not in the lesson
plan but was born out of interactions, discussions and questioning through the
Differentiation by support and dialogue played a key
role in my lessons as the LA were continually encouraged. This worked out in (Appendix
B and C). In the comprehension class (Appendix A), I mediated knowledge through
modelled reading where I transferred control through the shared reading
(Ankrum, J. 2014) but this shouldn’t be the first approach to the lesson. I
also applied Verbal scaffolding, promptings, questioning and praising learners
in my differentiated lessons in that comprehension lessons, (Appendix A) but
this came a bit late since if it were applied earlier in the lesson, I would
have helped the MA and LA better as I am aware that some pupils may be very
restricted in what they can do without support (Bauman, A. S, Bloomfield, A.
and Roughton, L. 1997).
A clear structure of scaffolding in the comprehension
class (Appendix A) would have helped the pupils to complete the learning task (Bruner
1966). This was seen clearly in (Appendix C) where the structure of the
scaffold provided in the given task in the lesson aided the completion of the
task successfully. A major challenge I faced in the Comprehension class was
that I overestimated the pupils’ ability, hence the support provided did not
match their needs (Wood and Middleton 1975). I also found out that emphasizing
certain aspects that will help with the solution of the task is very key (ibid,
1975). Listing, pronouncing and explaining the new words from the beginning of
the class would have just made the difference in the lesson as opined by
Pollard (1987 cited in Pollard, A. (Ed.) 2014, p 311) that classroom life is
characterised by complexity and instant decisions have to be taken by the
teachers. These rapid decisions could either bring a positive outcome (Appendix
B) or negative outcome (Appendix A).
Generally, differentiated instruction approaches using
ZPD and scaffolding theory was a very useful tool in the completion of my
lesson sequence as it is child centred in terms of differentiated task but it
required so much work, time and organisation for me to achieve success. In
relation to differentiation by outcome, the level of collaboration seen
especially in group work (Appendix C) was very impressive. Ordinarily the
outcome of the Social Studies class (Appendix C) in terms of its success if it
was an individual task would have been less successful and uninteresting.
However, if the collaboration and the support is not well guided, some pupils
may be restricted in what they can do (Appendix B) and can be discouraged (Baumann,
A. S., Bloomfield, A. and Roughton, L. 1997). Pollard (1987, p 311) opines that
it can be argued that differentiation is an approach that is very important and
cannot be done without in the classroom, although it has its challenges, it can
be dealt with if the teacher is to find ways of framing tasks, having a
structured strategies and activities to help time management in terms of
support and providing different kinds of assessment and variations in relation
to outcome (Bearne, E. 1996 cited in Pollard, A. (Ed), 2002, p 182-183).
As a 21st Century teacher, I believe
differentiation is the key to meaningful classroom where every individual
counts. To this end, I will continuously encourage collaboration to build a
more solid social interaction in my class where peer mentoring, modelling and
group activities will support every child to reach their potential.