Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Differentiated Instruction

When I first came across and read the dialogue on the cartoon, I clearly associated it with a classroom and it made me think of the significance of Differentiated Instruction and how we need to focus on creating inclusive learning environments. Here are a few thoughts:

All students can succeed. This is the most important belief that we as educators need to adopt as it acknowledges the dignity and worth of each student that is entrusted to our care and guidance. A belief in students is one of the greatest attributes in an educator. When educators believe in their students, they provide every opportunity for their success and they never give up on them. To see the elephant, fish, frog or seal attempt to climb the tree would be quite entertaining. Of course, this task is perfect for a monkey or a cat, as they are equipped to carry on this task very easily. The bird and the snail may need an extra accommodation to the execution of the task. The sail may need some additional time and this task would be quite simple if the bird would be given permissions to simply fly to the treetop. In the end, the expectation is to climb the tree. What happens to the elephant, seal or fish? Are they failures before they even began? I guess it is just too bad for them if they are not naturally equipped with the means to accomplish this task and achieve success!

Each student has his or her own unique patterns of learning framed within the context of their social, cultural matrix. If I have never climbed a tree, I will never need to, or even if I simply do not have the ability to do so, how can I do this without support and practice? What if I am afraid of heights, or if I am forbidden to climb trees? How am I expected to be engaged with this task if there is no point of reference for me? Why am I being asked to do something that I clearly just cannot do?

Fairness is not sameness. Students with unique learning needs (e.g., special education) or cultural backgrounds (e.g. ELL) require learning material and teaching strategies that match their needs: If I am a fish, how can climbing a tree be made into a meaningful exercise for me? I am not a monkey, so the most I can achieve is an average to below average mark, possibly even a failure. What is the point of trying?


  1. I really like that cartoon! It shows very clearly that not all students can be expected to achieve the same result in every aspect of education. This might even be a good visual representation to show students that would help explain learning differences with their peers.

  2. Yes I agree. I actually gave my students a culminating task for a novel study on The Giver. They are to create a timeline that depicts the significant events of the story. I told them that I was not going to tell them how I wanted them to present the information to me, they are to choose how to complete this assignment. I gave them a few examples, but ultimately I am leaving the responsibility in their own hands. I tried to explain this to them, that everyone is different and likes to complete tasks the way they feel most comfortable doing so. Ultimately, I tried to explain that the learning goal was the same, however, they had the choice to complete the assignment in any format that sutis their learning styles. I could see the many different interests of my students as they discussed how they were going to complete this assignment, i.e., using bitstrip, power point etc... I think this is an excellent picture to use, and not only to show teachers. You make a great point, we need to also show our students that diversity is great and that we all learn differently and that is ok!