During the first part of the 2009-10 academic year, whilst the interns were on their “J” or joint weeks, I had to re-examine (and in many cases re-discover or redress) my thinking about lots of different aspects of history teaching. I’m a relatively inexperienced teacher, having started teaching in september of 2003, but even in that time I picked up may practices that I just ‘did’. Some of these things worked really well (others perhaps less so), but I didn’t really examine why I was doing them.
One of the things I had the chance to think about again was differentiation. In the past I’ve often conflated thinking about differentiation with hosts of other things, making things easy, helping weaker students to achieve, making different worksheets for different ‘types’ of student, dealing with students with individual education plans, special needs, or specific learning difficulties. Often differentiation has been about ‘bottom sets’ in my mind. These ideas led me to a heady mix of guilt, aversion and ignorance when it comes to thinking about ‘differentiation’. You’ll know from an earlier post that I have been convinced that talking about ‘ability’ is misleading.
The first article is therefore called ‘the difference engine’ and it’s about driving learning without labeling. The second is about the contribution of language to differentiation. The third is two lists of things that ‘differentiate’.