The Difference Engine

We’re about to start the last term of my time as a tutor on Oxford Uni’s History PGCE. It’s been quite an experience, and although I’m looking forward to congratulating the interns at the end of the course, and I’m excited about the new responsibilities I’m picking up in September, I will be sad to loose such close contact with a really incredible bunch of people.

During the first part of the 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.

In writing sessions for the OUDE interns I therefore had a chance to think again, and to learn lots from them, and from Anna Pendry, the lead tutor on the course. I hope in the next weeks to record some of the results of these thoughts, and when I do I’ll post them here.

I’m starting with an article about differentiation. In the past I’ve often conflated thinking about differentiation with whole host 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. So, the article is called ‘the difference engine’ and it’s about driving learning without labeling.

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