MODELS OF DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION IN THE ENGLISH STUDIES CLASSROOM
(A STUDY OF THREE SELECTED SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN DISTRICT IV, YABA, LAGOS)
1.1 Background of the Study
Differentiated instruction and assessment (also known as differentiated learning or, in education, simply, differentiation) is a framework or philosophy for effective teaching that involves providing different students with different avenues to learning (often in the same classroom) in terms of: acquiring content; processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and developing teaching materials and assessment measures so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability. Students vary in culture, socioeconomic status, language, gender, motivation, ability/disability, personal interests and more, and teachers must be aware of these varieties as they plan curriculum. By considering varied learning needs, teachers can develop personalized instruction so that all children in the classroom can learn effectively (Bearne, 1996).
Successful differentiation of content requires teachers to identify essential understandings, benchmarks, targets, standards, and learner outcomes before forging ahead with the curriculum (Buswell, Schaffner, & 1999). Identifying what is important to teach and the skills necessary will help a teacher communicate goals and targets to learners more clearly. Students need to know the requirements of a task they are to do to become successful. A clear outcome will help students reach the targets and master the content.
Differentiating instruction may mean teaching the same material to all students using a variety of instructional strategies, or it may require the teacher to deliver lessons at varying levels of difficulty based on the ability of each student. Formative assessment is an essential ingredient of this method. The process of how the material in a lesson is learned may be differentiated for students based on their learning styles, taking into account what standards of performance are required for the age level. This stage of differentiation allows students to learn based either on what method is easiest for them to gain knowledge, or what may challenge them most: some students may prefer to read about a topic (or may require practice in reading), and others may prefer to listen (or require practice in listening), or acquire knowledge by manipulating objects associated with the content. Information may be presented in multiple ways by the teacher, and may be based on any available methods or materials. Many teachers use areas of Multiple Intelligences to provide learning opportunities (Kiernan, 1997).
Differentiated classrooms have also been described as those that respond to student variety in readiness levels, interests and learning profiles. It is a classroom that includes all students and can be successful. To do this, a teacher sets different expectations for task completion for students based upon their individual needs.
Differentiation is rooted and supported in literature and research about the brain. Evidence suggests that, by instructing through multiple learning pathways, more “dendritic pathways of access” are created. This can be achieved by using several senses (i.e. sight, sound, smell) or by creating cross-curricular connections. When more regions of the brain store data about a subject, there is more interconnection and cross-referencing of data from multiple storage areas in response to a single cue, meaning one has learned rather than memorized (Madea, 1994).
As Tomlinson (1999) argues, information is acquired through the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. This information is stored temporarily, and the brain decides what to do with the acquired data. The more of these stimuli that are activated, the more impact the data has on the brain. This information is pertinent to differentiation, which can activate multiple senses and thus have a greater impact on the brain.
Teachers who differentiate are quite aware of the scope and sequence of curriculum prescribed by their state, district, and school. They are also aware of the students in their classrooms who begin each school year spread out along a continuum of understanding and skill. The teacher˜s goal is to maximize the capacity of each learner by teaching in ways that help all learners bridge gaps in understanding and skill and help each learner grow as much as quickly as he or she can (Tomlinson, 1996).
Modeling differentiated instruction is one way to demonstrate how educators can incorporate instructional strategies to address students’ needs, interests, and learning styles. The three basic models of differentiated instruction are content, process and product.
According to Tomlinson (2001), a teacher can differentiate content based on the student characteristics. One way to modify content is based on students’ readiness level.
Process involves the way students use the content that was taught and apply their understanding to a task. Teachers can adapt the process according to students’ characteristics of readiness, interest, and learning profiles.
Differentiating product means that students have a choice in how they demonstrate what they have learned.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The problem addressed by this study is the lack of consistent use of differentiated instruction strategies at the English Studies Classroom. Even though there are well documented methods of differentiated instruction practices and proven success for improving student results, educators are described as not consistent with use of these methods (Winebrenner, 1992).
The teaching profession is extremely challenging and includes a wide array of necessary duties. Because of this, some teachers feel overwhelmed with just their daily requirements, let alone adding differentiation to their current instructional methods. Planning and implementing, while using differentiation, requires a lot of hard work and determination.
The main reason differentiation does not work effectively in some places can be traceable to the way students are deployed in most of the classrooms. Toss together several students who struggle to learn, along with a smattering of gifted kids, while adding a few English-language learners and a bunch of academically average students and expect a single teacher to differentiate for each of them. That is a recipe for academic disaster. Such an admixture of students with varying abilities in one classroom causes even the most experienced and conscientious teachers to flinch, as they know the task of reaching each child is an impossible one (Dolan & Hall, 2001).
The emphasis on rigor with high standards has led many teachers to abandon differentiated instruction. Teachers need to help students catch up through scaffolded instruction, while the students concurrently keep up with rigorous grade-level instruction. However, teachers often feel the pressure to do the latter at the expense of the former.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of the study is to find if teachers incorporate the concept of differentiated instruction in their lesson planning and delivery. Therefore, the specific objectives are:
- To find out teachers knowledge of differentiated instruction.
- To determine what variables differentiate the students in ESL classroom.
- To find out if teachers accommodate the different variables in the use of instructional techniques.
- To determine the different strategies teachers use to differentiate instruction in the ESL classroom.
- To investigate how students relate with teacher techniques of differentiation
- To determine the effect of the techniques of differentiation on learners involvement in the learning.
1.4 Research Question
The following research questions were suggested for the study:
- What is the teachers’ knowledge of differentiated instruction?
- How can the teacher determine what variables that differentiate the students in English as a second Language Classroom?
- How do teachers accommodate the different variables in the use of instructional techniques?
- What do teachers use to determine the different strategies used in differentiating instruction in the ESL classroom?
- How do students relate with teachers techniques of differentiation?
- Effect of the techniques of differentiation on learners involvement in the learning?
1.5 Significance of the Study
A lot of research work has been done on differentiated instruction in English studies classroom. This work is to complement the efforts that have been made by other scholars in this area of study. This study is designed to trace the presence of the differentiated instruction features in Nigerian English studies classroom.
This study will help identify the reason for the challenges students face in articulating intelligibly English words and also help recommend a viable solution.
This research is significant in a number of ways as it will:
Provide Nigerian users of English with the evidence to establish the variances in the features of English and differentiated instruction.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study attempts to study models of differentiated instruction in the English studies classroom. The study will cover three selected secondary schools in District IV, Yaba, Lagos.
1.7 Operational Definition of Key Terms
Differentiated instruction: According to the purposes of this study, differentiated instruction is a philosophy of teaching that accommodates for student needs and unique abilities.
Engagement: This refers to the degree of intensity and emotional quality of involvement in initiating and carrying out learning activities.
Leveled work: This refers to the content of a lesson being varied for different groups of studentsŸ abilities or readiness.
Process: This refers to how students learn, including the different activities and strategies that may be used.
Student Interest: Student interest refers to the topics that motivate a student.
Student readiness: Student readiness refers to the student’s prior knowledge and ability level.
Classroom: A classroom is a learning space, a room in which both children and adults learn about things.
English Language: The English Language is the primary language of several countries and a second language in a number of multilingual countries
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