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In the light of the tasks which you have completed this week and background reading, discuss how teachers plan for and support their pupils’ individual educational needs.
For your response, reflect upon the observations you have undertaken, and your reading and provide an analysis of approaches to differentiation that you consider would be appropriate to implement in order to engage and support learners in your subject area or age phase.
Being as we are all individual from our style of dress to our sense of taste, our differences are also apparent in the classroom. All students have their own way of learning and also do not share the ability to grasp information at the same level. There are other factors that facilitate students’ learning, including age, gender, motivation, personality, self-concept, life experience as well their cultural background (Chapter 4, 2002). The method of designing and distributing lessons to grasp every student is known as differentiated instruction.
Differentiated instruction has been described as “factoring students’ individual learning styles and levels of readiness first before designing a lesson plan” (Weselby, 2014). There has been exploration into this form of instruction and findings show that the method helps a broad range of students, including students with a learning disability to students deemed as being high ability. Although it’s a must to be integrated into schools nowadays with the increase of learning disabilities, or at least the detection of them in students, undifferentiated classrooms are common (Scarlett, 2015). Students in these classrooms are likely to be grouped by uniformitiy; being able to engage in knowledge in a limited way; and anticipate students to receive knowledge through teacher led instruction and separately.
Teachers must adopt different methods to accommodate each students’ capabilities. They should set clear learning outcomes and targets and openly speak about the learning motives with their students. By using this form of communication the students will become more aware of what is expected of them to achieve and in turn form better choices on how they will get the results. The school system should give guidelines as to what is expected of the students and the curriculum must be at the appropriate level, which will then drive students to immerse themselves into the learning process. Another point is that schools should also boost students to look past the curriculum environs of textbooks, and to process material and make their own conclusions in order to strengthen their learning proficiency.
According to John McCarthy, teachers address content, process and product constantly while giving lessons. Differentiating material encompasses using different methods of delivery including video, readings, lectures, or audio (McCarthy, 2015). Knowledge, concepts, and skills that students must grasp constitute content. Opportunities may be given for students to determine their own content based on their likes. The process is how a student understands the content. Time must be given in order to reflect and summarize the tasks they’ve just learned before jumping to next area of instruction. This helps students gauge what they do or do not understand from their lesson. The most familiar form of differentiation being put into practice is by product differentation. This is shown by having teachers giving students options to where they can choose from schemes or where the students are able to choose their own ideas. Orlich agrees by noting that “content is subdivided into narrower, less inclusive ideas, isolating each fact, concept or generalization within a hierarchy of knowledge so that it can be learned independently” (Orlich et al., 2009), therefore claiming content differentiation removes every fragment of learning.
Observations from the third grade class show the teacher having differentiated work for students of different abilities and capabilities in the two subjects she taught, English and Science. As some students are more apt in one over the other, she put the students in groups, having at least one that was stronger in one area while another student was stronger in another so no student felt as if they were low level learner in all areas. For example, some students are visual while others are aural. This way, the students were then able to ask a groupmate for help as well and it helped form a cohesiveness where others did not feel as validated for not knowing how to do an activity. It’s been argued by researchers that students benefit most from being grouped by mixed-ability (Loreman et al, 2005; Sapon-Shevin, 2007). Due to being from different walks of life as in culture or ethnicity and having differing levels of understanding and passions, students are then able to collaborate and gain knowledge from each other. This method of having students with contrasting abilities helping one another is know as scaffolding (Vygotsky and Kozulin, 1986). This changes the teacher’s role from ‘management to instruction’ to having their group mates ‘peer-tutoring’ (Sapon-Shevin, 2007). Another article states “Some teachers dictate the seating arrangements for every lesson, but it makes for better relationships if groups can be negotiated on occasion,” (Piggott, 2012). The teacher also planned her lessons around what she had learned about her students and therefore set up the classroom in a specific way. By doing this first, lesson planning seemed to be more beneficial for all involved. The plans included work with differing amounts of difficulty to keep ones that finish tasks early busier and not disturb the class.
The activity centered around what the students had learned after their first term exam. Students were put into groups according to where they sat. Slips of paper were put in different areas of the classroom and students were to complete activites on slips of paper according to the what the focus was: Writing, Verbs, Drama and Science. Each section included questions of differing difficulty allowing all students to be able to participate. Every 5 minutes a buzzer would sound and each group would move to next area and complete the activity. Students were able to support each other and compare notes, therefore accommodating different prefences and support needs (Differentiation – Geoff Petty, 2015)
Once the activity was finished, students went back to their desks and answers were gone over. She had the students look over their work and find areas they may need either extra help in from the teacher or a classmate or if they had areas they felt they could improve on and allowed some time to work with their groupmates to see if they were able to help each other understand where they may have gone wrong in some areas. When differentiated work has been done in class, maximum benefit is derived when pupils feed back to their peers on what they have done (Piggott, 2012). By asking the students for feedback she was then able to set individual taks and targets. For example, Student #14 is a low-level English learner and had trouble with verbs, specifically irregular. She asked the student to please practice these irregular verbs for an extra 5 minutes every day with a set of flashcards she had made for the class. The student was also able to use a trusted classmate in order to feel more comfortable learning information others already knew. The approach to teaching follows differentiating teaching as well as following Bloom’s Taxonomy by completing the activities in every level (Bloom’s Taxonomy.org, n.d.).
Towards the end of the first term, the teacher decided to try a different approach to learning, the flipped classroom. This method was researched by promoted so that students were able to achieve “first-exposure learning prior to class and focus on the processing part of learning (synthesizing, analyzing, problem-solving, etc.) in class” (Brame, 2013). Understanding the needs of many of the ESL students and knowing not all benefit from extra English lessons after school, she decided to complete higher areas of cognitive work in class where she is able to provide help in native English whereas answers may be more taxing at home. Doing this also adds support from classmates. The ‘easier’, less intellectual work would be completed for homework, therefore helping to eliminate problems associated with not understanding more complex work. Bloom’s Taxonomy was revised to follow this method (Brame, 2013).
There are some disagreements with differentiated learning and it has become a topic of debate, more so when teaching differentiation in a mixed-ability enviroment. In “More Children Being Taught in Mixed Ability Classrooms” (Paton, 2012), it’s inferred the author is involved in the idea that streaming students is a better method of teaching versus having mixed ability classes in a school. However, not all students learn the same ways. Hallam (2002) said it’s not constantly proven that students in a high achievement stream will keep the their grades up and that data proposes that less than a quarter of primary students do not achieve five A* to C marks within the GSCE standard (Ireson & Hallam, 1999). It’s also not pledged evey student in a stream will be correctly situated according to their scholastic strengths, examining every aspects, and points of intellect (Sukhnandan & Lee, 1998). Placing students in an incorrect stream undermines their abilities and has a damaging consequence towards their accomplishments (Venkatakrishnan & Wiliam, 2003). If tasks are too out of reach for a student’s comprehension and understanding, the student becomes disappointment and will not engage in learning to the best of his or her ability (Vygotsky and Kozulin, 1986). By putting students in a specific stream it’s safe to say that learning is thought to be one-dimensional whereas studies have concluded acumen has many layers. For instance, to put a student into a stream less apt for him due to not having high ability in common areas of study such as literacy and numeracy but he is gifted in other ways, may more than likely lower the likelihood of achievements (Venkatakrishnan & Wiliam, 2003). If students are grouped together by ability level, especially one of being in a lower level, the students are then defined as being low learning and this can have an adverse effect on on learning, possibly having the group being harder to teach (Kyriacou, 2009). Tomlinson (2001) states, “The term ‘slow learners’ often carries with a negative connotation of being shiftless and lazy”. This also may happen in high ability groups because “advanced learners can become mentally lazy, even though they do well in school,” (Tomlinson, 2001). These learners are no different when having to advance their capabilities. Without proper teaching for success and having plans that suitably test them, they may not reach their learning capacity.
Accommodating the needs of a wide variety of learning styles is one of the most discouraging issues teachers in schools face nowadays (Futrell, Gomez, & Bedden, 2003). The teachers of today are challenged with giving enriching useful lessons all along catering to differing styles of learning within in a class through appealing, thought demanding and differentiated lessons (Hobson, 2004). As classrooms are becoming more diverse, teachers must learn to adapt to differentiated teaching as to reach all students, no matter their ability. In a differentiated classroom, there are many things happening at any given time during class time (Tomlinson, 2001). The strategies used by the teacher being observed showed she understood how to differentiate by task, accommodate different preferences and support-needs as well as setting individual tasks and targets, providing a stimulating learning activity for her students (Differentiation – Geoff Petty, 2015).
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Assignment question week 2
Using your observations and reading as a starting point, analyse the factors that may support or hinder the development of an inclusive classroom environment for a particular group of pupils.
An inclusive classroom environment would be “schooling in which students with different kinds of disabilities and learning needs are educated in classes with typically developing students and students without disabilities” (Scarlett, 2015). Inclusive education for students with disabilities typically does not just happen (Terrano, 2012).
There are countless elements that go into designing in which students with learning impairments are taught in company with regular peers. Each of the following circumstances, or the absence of any, can alter inclusion and the caliber of a student’s learning. Expense is an issue when dealing with inclusive classrooms due to having the need to employ specialists and extra faculty to help with students’ needs. Many districts, especially in smaller or lower-income areas, do not have the additional funds to adequately serve the children. Negative attitudes are a large barrier towards inclusion. Beliefs and conventional ideas are usually due to a shortfall of information and understanding. Coaching educators to empathize and instruct students with impairments is more often than not not up-to-par with the needs of the students. By employing teachers with negative connotations of inclusive eduation concerning students with disabilities or have a small level of confidence in them, the students will not be taught quality work. A third obstacle to an inclusive classroom is the ability to enter the classroom if the student is disabled. Wheelchairs access, lifts, ramps and the like are not available in every school nor are there the funds for these improvements to happen. There may be students who are not able to open a door in more conventional ways like using a handle. The classroom must be adapted to meet the students’ needs. A fourth barrier includes expediting a curriculum for students with disabilities. Teachers should be prepared to work with inclusion specialists to produce adjustments when giving lessons and also with assignments in and outside the classroom. A final barrier to inclusive education is the absence of communication amongst all involved with students with disabilities, from school administrators to the students themselves. Communication needs to be constant and accessible and planning among teachers and educational specialists is vital to inclusion working in the classroom. Participation between the teachers, faculty and parents is important in order to meet the student’s educational needs outside of school (Terrano, 2012).
As well as having barriers, there are a few types of challenges and predictaments correlated with inclusive classrooms that may prove problematic. These tend to be related to emotional and behavioral barriers and according to Scarlett (2015), a few types of “challenges and dilemmas associated with inclusive education are especially relevant to classroom management”. The very definition of behavior is the way an animal or person behaves in response to a particular situation or stimulus. This barrier cannot be separated from schooling and comfort. If students are given a safe, comforting environment in which to learn, they will be less inclined to threaten the opportunities to learn (Education, n.d.).
There are strategies to help teachers match students’ learning needs, tenacity and passions alongside the environment in to which they learn and also its plan. To start, educators must understand students’ behavior and the motive behind them occuring. With this the educator must also know the role of adult feedback. Second, educators should strive to create an environment that aids positive behavior. Ways this can be done is by establishing routines, setting expectations in cooperation with the students, and by removing obstacles from the beginning (Education, n.d.). Third, educators can build student relations by developing connections that encourage unity and awareness. Teachers may create mentors or peer tutoring programs, uphold rapport and confidence with their students and also with their parents, and also by bolstering and supporting fellow relations. Fourth, teachers can explain and follow the behavior guidelines they set by combining them with their curriculum. Pre-advise the needed proficiency if necessary and also administer helpful varieties of constructive attention ideas. The teacher may need to pre-advise the students on skills such as problem-solving or social; analyze substite attitudes; help lower irritation by searching for the situation causing the irritation; come up with a personal system in agreement with the student and the peers that associate with the student; and also by learning how to handle tough moments. The teacher can take preventive steps to help lessen a student’s displeasure therefore keeping the balance of the group (Scarlett, 2015). Last, teachers can give more attention to behaviors that support leaning and wellbeing than to those that don’t. Teachers can do this by using encouragement, attention, and praise in the classroom that help study and contentment. Teachers can also give explicit, helpful responses as to help encourage the student.
While no one method of support works, one study showed there were many that regular worked sufficiently including “good teaching and learning for all children and young people; high aspirations for the achievement of all children and young people, and swift changes to provision as a result of evaluating achievement and well-being in and by individual providers and local areas” (Ofsted, 2010), just to name a few. Teaching in an inclusive environment can be demanding and tasking for all involved but there are rewards for creating such an environment for disabled learners. According to an article by PBS Parents (Education, 2013), there is data concluding how children and families benefit from an inclusive classroom. The idea of what families see for their child can come true, having them be part of a ‘normal’ routine and classroom helping the disabled child live more of a ‘regular’ life. Another way students will benefit from inclusive education is by establishing ways to appreciate everyone’s differences and likenesses. This helps students with learning to appreciate diversity in the world around them. Third, friendly relationships will form, therefore learning social skills needed to grow in today’s society. Fourth, children with disabilities will be able to have a ‘push’ in learning. All students need to learn literacy and there will be higher expectations put upon them. And lastly, the students can learn from each other by working closely together.
Unfortunately, due to Hong Kong’s idea of what education should be and the fact parents have a hard time or flat out do not accept a child as being ‘different’, inclusive education will not be introduced into the schools any time soon. There are a few schools that have adapted to teaching students with different learning abilities and challenges but until the citizens of Hong Kong learn to accept their child may be different, nothing will change. This sentiment is expressed in other countries as well such as South Korea, where having any type of disability ‘taints’ the family blood line and said students are pushed to the outskirsts and put into facilities. If inclusive education is to work in Hong Kong, negative connotations to this method of teaching need to be eradicated by not only parents but the government as well and start having more beneficial means of instruction for those who are disabled.
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Assignment question weeks 3 and 4
In the light of the Tasks which you have completed in Weeks 3 and 4 and background reading:
Analyse formative feedback strategies that you have observed and reflect upon the extent to which they had an impact on pupil learning, particularly when addressing misconceptions.
Within the last decade, studies have proved that giving useful feedback to students improves their academic success. However, not all feedback is efficient and it can create an adverse reaction especially if it’s given in an unfavorable way (Stenger). Formative feedback helps teachers bridge the divide in what their students understand and grasp compared to what they’ve anticipated to happen (Orlich, Harder and Callahan). In order for the feedback to be beneficial for the students, they have to possess the exact comprehension that the teacher has and while doing so, have to be able to appraise their own works and audit themselves using different techniques to edit and improve their works. All in all, feedback should be done so that the student will move forward and is motivated to do so. Students must also have the chance to give their teachers feedback on what they have learned so the teacher will know what information is aiding their students’ learning, “feedback ‘for’ learning (Sheffield).
Formative assessment research has shown a consistent finding that attention to the interactive nature of formative assessment can lead to significant learning gains (Black and Wiliam, 2006). The research study ‘Inside the Black Box’ conducted by Black and Wiliam (2001) states the importance of assessment being informal and interactive is emphasized, with students and outlines research findings on how to improve formative assessment in schools, through increased use of peer and self-assessment amongst students. Their study accentuated the use of informal assessment and feedback to students to inform how to bridge the gap between current attainment and full potential.
Observations in a grade 3 class showed the teacher using different forms of formative feedback, depending on the subject being taught. In a writing class, the students were able to read each other’s work. They were not to be ‘graded’ by the students but just have them understand others’ writing styles and was implemented for students to get advice on their rough drafts before handing in a final piece. After the reading had been finished, the teacher then passed out a sheet that had 10 statements referring to the papers they read. The feedback ranged from positive to negative statements scattered throughout the sheet. The students were then put into groups of their choosing and had to read the statements, then talk to each other about the statements and mark which they statements they found beneficial and positive by marking with a tick. For those they did not find positive, the group was to mark their choice with an ‘x’. The students were given 5 minutes to complete this activity and then had time to talk with one another on why and how they came about their choices.
Through this course of feedback, the teacher was able to know what her students were thinking and how much they have learned from class. She challenged their thinking skills critically by using discussion, allowing them to use their English skills in class and using vocabulary they have learned in class. She also pointed out the growth of her students’ mindset and how far they have advanced in their thinking and speaking skills, reinforcing their self-determination. The teacher was also able to gauge their comprehension skills, which have been lacking according to the prior exam. By using a discussion as feedback, she could get an understanding of where she needs to put more focus in on when revising for tests and exams.
In the General Studies class, the teacher gave out vocabulary homework and was clear on how to set up the work. Once the work had been turned in and checked, there were many students whom have become better in their work and the teacher made sure she let the student know. Work was checked and given back the next day, therefore reinforcing the notion that feedback was better received when it’s given right away, compared to later in the week or month (Stenger). The teacher complimented a student for following directions to her requirements and also noted how another’s handwriting had improved since last term. There are a few new students in class and knowing they had a hard time adjusting, the teacher made sure to write positive notes in their books as well as feedback on how to find the information to complete their work.
One way the teacher used feedback was by engaging the students in online quizzes through Kahoot. Students were given laptops and they were to have a class ‘quiz’ on verbs for upcoming tests. There were 20 questions ranging from easy to hard. Students were to use their favorite number as a sign in in order to remain anonymous. After every question is finished, a tally of correct and incorrect answers show up and then the next question comes up. Once the ‘quiz’ had finished, the students’ scores were shown on screen and they, along with the teacher, were able to see where they may need help on. After reviewing the scores, the teacher then went over every question and answer. She had a system for understanding the material that seemed to work well and did not make anyone uncomfortable. If students understood the material they were to make an ‘O’ and if they did not understand the material, they were to make an ‘X’ with their arms. By using this feedback, the teacher could then review the material a student or students did not understand without making the student feel less knowledgeable.
From the observations, two types of feedback were used—directive and facilitative (Black and Wiliam, 2006). The directive approach was used when she let her students know how they’ve improved or how they can improve. The facilitative approach was used when completing the Kahoot quiz and also the writing exercise, having students amend their work and review where they need the most help in. The feedback had also been differentiated towards the learning ability and style of each student. From what had been observed, the teacher complimented her role in her students’ learning.
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Assignment week 5
In the light of the Tasks which you have completed in Week 5 and background reading:
Provide a critical analysis of how teaching is planned to build on pupils’ capabilities and prior knowledge in your own subject area or age phase. Include in this the role of subject specialist knowledge.
Students arrive to school with an extensive scope of information, assumptions, accomplishments and points of view that will effect their interpretation of future material they are to learn and absorb. It is important to test their prior knowledge in order to understand areas that will benefit or delay their learning (Gee). Studies have reported theat students learn new material by correlating it to information they already known (Vygotsky and Kozulin, 1986) and combined with their experiences make up crucial skills for taking in new information.
Pre-assessing students is vital in order for the teacher to provide instruciton at a suitable speed and stage for the students. Teachers are able to pre-assess in diffferent ways such as game activities, student interviews, journaling, surveys and questionnaires, or through predictions. By assessing students on their answers, the teacher can then build their lesson plans according to the students’ needs. In a differentiated learning environment, special needs students can be assessed in different ways such as drawing or performing acts or by creating a portfolio showing the understanding of a concept by using pictures. Teachers may also assess special needs students by using technology such as computers or talking dictionaries to help boost the student’s literacy skills (“7. Differentiation Techniques For Special Needs Students – Differentiation & LR Information For SAS Teachers”).
Before each unit of study in a reading class, it was observed that the teacher conducted a pre-assessment by playing Twenty Questions. The topic was about the sound /s/ and how many ways it can be written. She displayed a card on the whiteboard with a picture of a snake, a second cue card with an ice cube and third cue card with a whistle. She then instructed the students to ask questions that would result in yes or no answers hopefully bringing the students to the conclusion that they /s/ sound would be the topic of the lesson. The students were able to work in groups and were given ample time to write down questions they may have before the questioning began. The teacher then called upon students according to their class number and answered their questions with yes or no. The students as a whole could say the words but only one group of students were able to correlate the pictures with the /s/ sound. Once the answer had been given, the teacher wrote other forms of the /s/ sound on the board and had students come up with words but one grapheme proved problematic and it was the /-st-/ form. Only when the teacher used examples were the students able to understand she was looking for the /s/ sound and not the blending of the /s/ and /t/ sounds. This provided a chance to repeat material they learned about the difference between syllables and sounds and as they went over words with the /s/ sound, she would then ask how many syllables and sounds were in each word as to make sure they understood the content.
In the General Studies class, the teacher created brainstorming sheets about the three states of matter, which was the topic at hand. Each sheet posed a different question about matter and was put into different areas of the class. Students were put into groups of six and had to move around the room, answering the question at the top of the paper. She gave each station five minutes and when the time was up, the students moved to the next chart until they had completed all five charts by adding their own thoughts and knowledge about matter. Once finished the students went to their original chart and presented the question and answers written down. The students were then able to gain more insight about the material and the teacher was able to gauge how much they knew before starting the new unit.
By pre-assessing the students the teacher was able to gain insight of where her students needed the most help. Being ESL learners, the students clearly had more trouble coming up with words having the /s/ sound spelled different ways. She then created a short-term lesson plan that would re-evaluate what they retained in the following two weeks. She also had the students brainstorm in groups how many words they could come up with that had the /s/ sound in different forms and results were quite surprising once they got going. The students also correlated that the use of the hyphen in a word meant the placement of the sound and this helped when during their brainstorming.
In the General Studies lesson, the students knew more information about states of matter as these can be seen and used in every day life. The students had more visuals into what is gas, liquid or a solid and plus they had learned this in their previous grades. By using short-term plans, the teacher is then able to account for her students’ capabilities and shortcomings in what is being taught and can formatively assess her students every couple weeks until they have full understanding of the material. Included in the plan, she can continue the brainstorming ideas by furthering their learning by having them think deeper and help establish higher order thinking by having the students categorize and apply learned information to find new results. She incorporated a class period of using the laptops to find information on the Internet and assess what they found. Over the course of the following two weeks, the teacher was also able to adjust the targets and learning outcomes for specific students if their personal goals have changed either positively or negatively, especially for those with low ability English skills.
As teachers, it’s important to keep in mind to create a bridge between our students’ prior knowledge and what will be learned. Paiget felt one of society’s essential functions was to educate children (Alber). In order to educate a child to their hightest capability, teachers must be aware of any obstacles. It’s important to have clear guidelines of what is expected but it’s also important to understand what will be accepted as knowledge. Teachers want to measure progress towards their goals and by performing pre-assessments, teachers will be more capable at helping their students become more knowledgeable.
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