Education Week’s article Differentiation Doesn’t Work by James R. Delisle is floating around teacher social media outlets like crazy right now. It was also presented at our professional development session today as an introduction to a day filled with taking differentiation from theory to practice. The end viewpoint, that we should begin a tracking approach to education rather than differentiate within each classroom, is rather extreme but the article touches on some valid points.
Although I think the article itself is a great read, what I’m really here to tell you about is what our principal did to spark serious discussion around this bold piece of writing. Since he didn’t tell us what this discussion approach is called, I’m going to call it a Take-A Stand Discussion!
First, he had us read the article. Then, he displayed a few key ideas written in the article, including these:
“Differentiation is a failure, a farce, and the ultimate educational joke played on countless educators and students.” – James R. Delisle
“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.” James R. Delisle
For each statement, we had to position ourselves in the room depending on how much we agreed/disagreed with the statement. We stood to the far right if we strongly agreed, the far left if we strongly disagreed and at various places in the middle if we teetered.
He then had us justify our thinking using classroom examples and specific language from each excerpt. It was enlightening to hear what stood out to other teachers in each quote and the justification for their thinking. I walked away with a stronger idea of how I felt about my ability to differentiate and really solidified my opinions about the topic.