If you’ve been around the DEN any at all, you’ve probably seen that Discovery Education and Wilkes University launched an online master’s degree program in instructional media last year. Well, not only am I an assessment nerd, I happen to be a bit of a geek (which explains why I am blogging!) So, I’ve been checking out some of the courses. This session, I am taking the course in assessment. For me, this is a fun course since I am getting to see classmates get excited about using formative assessment to drive instruction. I am also taking the course on differentiating instruction. (btw, I spell it differientiating EVERY single time and spell checker saves me!) Now that I’ve confessed my inability to spell it, let me ask… do you know what differentiating instruction means?
In 2007, ISTE published Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms by Grace E. Smith and Stephanie Throne. I mention their names because not only did they write the textbook, but they also wrote the course and are teaching it this session! They explain in the text,
“Differentiated instruction focuses on teaching strategies that give diverse students multiple options for taking in and processing information, making sense of ideas, and expressing learning.”
Is it possible to give diverse students multiple options without assessment? I vote no. To differentiate by interest, teachers must assess student interest. This may be done through informal observations, interviews, or surveys. But, all of these are a type of assessment. In my experience as a special educator, I frequently used assessment to differentiate instruction by need. Typically, I’d use some sort of curriculum-based measure to determine students’ performance in reading fluency, comprehension, written expression, mathematics computation and reasoning. Using assessment tools, I was able to temporarily group students for specific lessons or units based on their needs. These freed up a lot of time and prevented a lot of behavior problems since students were working on appropriate assignments and frustration/boredom was minimized.
Using assessment tools, teachers can determine what students are interested in, their learning style, and what skills they need help on. This allows teachers to make decisions about what to teach and how to deliver the instruction to provide students the best opportunity to learn. That’s what differentiating instruction is all about!
Until next time!
Your Friendly Assessment Nerd, Porter