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Strategies for Differentiating Instruction:…

Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices for the…

by Julia Roberts Ed.D.

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book approaches the subject of utilizing differentiated instruction in the classroom. The authors present the information in a clear, concise manner, making sure to express the meaningfulness that differentiated instruction can impart. I really enjoyed that barriers (reasons why teachers do not differentiate) were included because many teachers may not recognize their own resistances to such strategies. Further, the tips relevant to preassessment and assessment can be particularly useful. ( )
  jonxangela | Jul 14, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices for the Classroom does an excellent job of consolidating all of the basic principles and strategies of Differentiated Instruction. The concepts are stated clearly, without too much education jargon, making this a good choice for someone new to the theory. Education students and teachers who choose this book will be pleased with the helpful charts, graphs and appendices included within. This useful introduction may not add much which is new to the study of Differentiated Instruction. However, the references lead readers to valuable resources for further study. ( )
  MomBoyd | Jan 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Strategies for Differentiating Instruction is a timely, well-written and concise book that will help any teacher become better at her profession. It shows how to incorporate the idea of respecting the diversity within the classroom by using many examples. the only problem I have is that most teachers or school systems will think these concepts or to complicated and time consuming.
  1JoyB | Jan 7, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book provides tools and ideas for teachers who may be struggling with reaching some, many, or most of their students. I am not a full-time school teacher. I am primarily a pastor, but I also teach in the school occasionally. The differentiating of teaching approaches, and, most importantly, the preassessment are what I would simply call exegeting your target audience. In other words, in order to teach any topic effectively the teacher must know WHO is being taught. The authors clearly make the case that the burden of the teacher is to discover the best method for communicating ideas effectively so that the broadest audience can understand it.
Probably the best chapter in the book addresses the problem of defining academic success. The authors propose that the highest goal of education, and thus the proper definition of academic success, is to create students who are joyful and lifelong learners. The authors write, "Educators also model lifelong learning when they share their interests in their content area--English teachers who write poetry, science teachers who have hobbies that relate to their teaching area, and art teachers who show their paintings at local galleries" (17). This type of connection between teachers and students is essential to this method and to academic success in this generation.
The authors then go on to discuss different possible methods of reaching students. These methods should not be viewed as sure-fire solutions, but rather as tools in a tool box. They might be the right tool in your case. They might not be the right tool.

Overall I give this book a positive rating based solely on the first four chapters. That is the foundation of this method. After that the authors present the various tools and strategies that may or may not be effective in practice. ( )
  hirtmd | Dec 31, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The authors compare a classroom to a dinner party, at which everyone has different tastes, or food allergies, or just had that meal the day before, etc. It can be a nightmare for the hostess, and serves as an apt metaphor for teaching. I could relate to both circumstances! Unfortunately, the authors don’t tell you how to solve the dinner party problem, but they do offer plenty of ideas for what to do with a classroom of students with mixed abilities and interests.

Preassessment is essential to planning, so that teachers can figure out who knows what and at what levels.

They explain how to plan tired lessons, integrating it with theory (such as Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives, Venn Diagrams, and “Think-Tac-Toe”) but providing plenty of examples of activities and techniques to implement their ideas.

They stress the importance of giving students options for task selection, but limiting the options according to the preassessment, so that students challenge themselves and at the same time do not overwhelm themselves.

I especially liked the section on grouping strategies. While grouping for ability is the most obvious approach in many circumstances, the authors write that grouping criteria should be switched up from time to time because (1) students benefit from exposure to working with a larger number of other students; and (2) teachers could inadvertently nurture a negative self-worth by always placing students in a lower-achieving group. They suggest using criteria for placement such as interest, regardless of ability or learning profile (for example, in a unit on sea animals, students could be grouped by which animal interests them most). Students could also be grouped according to preferred ways of learning (e.g., visual, auditory, game-driven, etc.) They also discuss the pros and cons of self-selection, random grouping, and cooperative learning groups (each student having a specific assignment within the group). Discussion of the latter choice does not consider that students might find a way around individual responsibility for assignments. In fact, all of the techniques analyzed assume good behavior on the part of students, which is not necessarily justified, but disciplinary issues are beyond the purview of the book.

Importantly, they also include a chapter on tackling the challenge of assessment in a situation in which students have been differentiated.

The book concludes with a number of useful appendices, many of which relate to assessment.

Discussion: In spite of the fact that this book offers a number of practical, concrete examples, it still seems very much tied to theory. All the Venn Diagrams in the world won’t necessarily be of use in a classroom with a very diverse student population, especially if the students have different racial and/or ethnic backgrounds than the teacher. Plenty of research attests, for example, to the tendency of teachers to evaluate the ability and behavior of students erroneously out of a lack of understanding for different cultural learning and behavioral styles. Then there is the whole issue of conflicts among students from such differing backgrounds.

The lack of attention to real-world behavior even in homogenous student bodies also militates against the usefulness of these suggestions. Students notoriously bully and demean others, including in situations in which timid but smart students are pressured to do the work of others, or students of color are pressured not to achieve, lest it signify their submission to the dominant culture. This can vitiate the entire differentiation process, not to mention the groupings. I think the problem at least deserves a mention, even if it is not the primary focus of the book, because it will affect the efficacy of the techniques employed.

Finally, I would have loved to see a chapter devoted to the problem of short-term differentiation. Suppose you have a guest instructor on a particular topic? Suppose you have a series of seminars? And what about that dinner party?

Evaluation: This book has much about it to recommend. I particularly appreciated all the examples of how to structure differentiated lessons and the inclusion of a number of aids for assessment. I would have liked it better if it had diverged more from the theoretical, however , to analyze how these suggestions might work within a realistic student milieu. It reminds me of theories about how all objects fall at the same rate in a vacuum: yes, very interesting, and important even, but how is it relevant to us as individuals in our real lives except in very rarified environments? ( )
  nbmars | Dec 11, 2014 |
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This updated second edition of the best-selling Strategies for Differentiating Instruction offers practical strategies that allow all students to learn at appropriately challenging levels and make continuous progress by focusing on their various levels of knowledge and readiness to learn. Written in a teacher-friendly manner, the book presents strategies that can be used in any classroom to ensure that each student's needs are met. Educational Resource… (more)

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Julia Roberts Ed.D.'s book Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices for the Classroom (3rd ed.) was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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