Differentiation? (Yes, another blog to read about it!)

Now, you can do a quick search on my toolkit or my blog using the word ‘differentiation’. You can also type the word into Google/Bing, Twitter or Pinterest and there will be a range of options/responses available to you as a result.

I personally have listed many ways you can ‘differentiate’ within other posts I have written. I have given examples of different ways you can do things to help? To help one become secure? And, ultimately a a plethora of strategies that could/should/would help one teach and therefore support a students learning.

Lots of people have differing views on the word/concept/theory? They base this either on their experience or research they have read/been presented.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 08.29.09

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 08.26.13

You can be forgiven if you find you are not entirely sure what this word means and if you are not quite certain about its importance. I mean you may have a school that says, we ‘don’t do differentiation.’ You may personally, feel you are against the notion itself.

I just wanted to highlight, whatever you call differentiation, however it is moulded, shaped and sold to you, for me, here is a definition,

Anything you do that accommodates differences in your classroom, OVER TIME.

If you have been foolish/brave enough to read anything I have written before about differentiation or were unfortunate/lucky enough to have me deliver CPD at your/a school/online webinar/conference/TeachMeet then you may notice that the over time element of my definition is relatively new.

I have added ‘over time’, over time. After much reflection, I fear the reason differentiation is feared? Hated? Resented? Is because educators think they must be seen to demonstrate different types of teaching, there and then? That they must plan many different activities, they must provide, physically planned resources that are all scaffolded in a number of ways, in a lesson, every lesson, right now.

I posted a Twitter poll asking colleagues to let me know what they differentiation means, the responses all varied, but, the underlying responses all suggested what I feel.

I feel, think, hope? That differentiation is teaching itself, differentiation is as old as teaching as an act, itself. I feel differentiation IS educating.

Lets bin the word. Lets just say that teaching is,

Anything you do that helps accommodates learning in your classroom, OVER TIME?

So, this may mean, the way you question your student’s/children/pupils, the way you pitch the tone of your voice, the many adaptations of a carefully constructed explanation of a task, the high expectations on behaviour, on work ethic and effort. The way you guide, the way you move your students from out their comfort zone to their challenge/stretch zone. The way you do what you do, daily?

Do not get these confused with the fact that the student you have in your class that has an EHCP (Do you know what that stands for?) is sitting, still, quiet, working.

I do not agree with anybody that thinks we should set one task and expect all of our students to achieve it in the same manner. And, if they do not get it. Tough.

Life is not like this? Life makes alterations, adaptations and tweaks to accommodate our differences. So why should we not do this for children, in our classrooms, our places of education?

Remember, we are educating, young minds; children. Or whatever the age, we are educating groups of people who are new to what is being presented to them.

Reflect on how you react to new information, is it the same way as your loved one, neighbour, sibling?

So, to the person who says, I expect all my students to do the same work, in the same manner and expect them to understand the task I have set. I back that educator whole heartedly. If they then complete their statement by saying, I do this by ensuring I respond to their difficulties, provide an appropriate form of support when they are stuck and allow them to make mistakes to then help them correct those mistakes. That to me is wonderful teaching and effective differentiation.

Differentiation is teaching ‘to the top’ and then supporting, (however you do it), to ensure all your students understand.

Differentiation is expecting, hoping, and wanting all students to succeed. (However, success as a term, as a value, is what needs to be understood.)

I do not back those educators that say, we can’t provide a different learning experience for those that do not learn at the same rates as others as it hinders the rest of the class. I say, rather controversially, maybe, THEY should remove themselves from the classroom then, or become a 1:1 tutor? Use your talents with fewer students? Or, again, rather controversially, set your students, very carefully, so you do not need to damage the work ethic and the potential of some of our students who need help, the most by not supporting them. (I don’t support sets/groupings at all, really however.)

I think differentiation as a word is too beaten, too bruised, too stretched in many directions. It is associated with teachers having to plan many different activities, different resources and a teacher having to run simultaneous lessons for groups banded together through various acronyms. But, wait. Thats what I do, in my classroom, however, it may not seem like it, if you came to see me, wanting to see a range of different coloured pieces of paper, or tables with stickers on them.

Instead, please think of differentiation as your daily practice, your vocation, this job. Desire it to be the way you do what you are hired to do, and beyond. Think of it as the reason you smile when a child finally has that eureka moment.

We will never be brilliant or perfect at it, because we will never be brilliantly perfect at teaching. Hence why we have a grading system, students are given a result at the end of their qualifications. To see who learnt in the manner they were taught? Some will get what we say/do/feel more, because of:

  • The way we say it
  • They way they can get it

This was a quickly written ‘rant’.

Sorry, not sorry.




  1. […] The blog gives some practical advice on how using the right questions and setting up a series of lessons with “thinking” in mind may go some way to maximising “challenge”. Schools and classrooms should create thinking. In his superb Tedtalk ( Students hide because it is wise to. We plan of course! Most of us are now looking at unprecedented change in terms of the curriculum. TimeKey questionLearning objectivesSuggested activitiesOutcomesA column every 6 weeks entitled “assessment” Suggestion 1: Language matters. Dok blooms comparison. Schemes that make a difference. Differentiation? (Yes, another blog to read about it!) – NewToThePost. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s