Teachers at the Grants Pass Seventh-day Adventist Christian School utilize differentiating instruction, or differentiation, in their classrooms. This method of teaching requires teachers to truly get to know their students, so they can ensure everyone is learning effectively.
Teachers here understand and cherish individual differences, recognizing that students come from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Language mastery, motivation, individual interests, and ability/disability all affect the learning environment. They will not learn at exactly the same pace, or in exactly the same way. Differentiation demands a teacher clearly recognize these differences to allow proper planning of curriculum.
We want our students to master content. This is more important than high percentages on test scores. The focus in our classrooms is standards. With differentiation, we strive to develop the most effective learners, teaching each students to utilize their own strengths to absorb and use what they learn. Our students are shown different avenues for learning, ones that might involve different expectations or tasks. Our teachers respond to the variety of readiness within the classroom. The end result is always the same—subject mastery.
In our classrooms in particular, differentiated instruction is effective because our school community is small and supportive. Teachers often will have a student in class for two years at a time. Teachers and students have that time to really know one another. The student’s individual needs can be met in a way that is flexible, challenging, and fair. Differentiating the classroom curriculum is truly student-centered.
Another aspect of differentiation is that our teachers respond to student talents and interests. Some might have musical talents. Our music teachers can nurture those students. Others might have an interest in sports and participate in after-school activities. A student’s love of animals might be highlighted in science lessons.
Teachers at the Grants Pass Adventist Christian School also utilize the principles of Choice Theory in their classrooms, which suggests a student’s motivation is internal, not external. Choice Theory’s developer, psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser, proposed that for progress in human relationships, we must give up the punishing, relationship–destroying external control psychology. For example, if you are in an unhappy relationship, Dr. Glasser proposes that one or both of you could be using external control psychology on the other. He goes further, suggesting that misery is always related to a current unsatisfying relationship. Contrary to what you may believe, your troubles are always now—never in the past. No one can change what happened yesterday.
Everyone chooses their own actions or reactions to situations. External control is used when we try to control another person’s choices and this usually results in negative situations. Choice Theory proposes that instead of external control, we encourage the use of choice in all of our interactions, and this will help to motivate and develop positive relationships and consequences during the learning process.
All teachers at the Grants Pass Adventist Christian School attended National Conference on Differentiated Instruction July 6-10, 2015. They will be attending the conference again July 18-22, 2016. Each teacher has made it their goal to utilize Choice Theory and Differentiated instruction within their classroom environment to motivate and increase student achievement.