Culturally Responsive Differentiated Instructional Strategies


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culturally responsive differentiated instructional strategies metropolitan center for urban education august 2008 metropolitan center for urban education 726 broadway 5th floor new york ny 10003-6680 212 998 5100 fax 212 995 4199


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using differentiated instruction to address disproportionality what is differentiated instruction typical classroom a sixth grade social studies class is beginning to study the civil rights movement some students are two and three years ahead of grade level in reading others are that far behind some have expressed prior knowledge and interest in the topic and are eager to learn more others are unfamiliar with the topic and don t seem interested at all a few have learning disabilities some are in various stages of learning english but the teacher is engaging all of these students and teaching them at the same time by differentiating the instruction how is this accomplished differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching and learning for students with different abilities in the same classroom the theory behind differentiated instruction is that teachers should vary and adapt their approaches to fit the vast diversity of students in the classroom tomlinson 1995 1999a hall 2002 teachers who differentiate instruction recognize that students differ in many ways including prior knowledge and experiences readiness language culture learning preferences and interests they realize they must change the way they teach in order to reach all students through differentiated instruction students will get to the same place but take different paths see sample lessons below and linguistically diverse children villegas lucas 2002 and their propensity to label the behavior of these students as negative and inappropriate klinger artiles et al 2005 klingner artiles 2005 recommend the creation of a culturally responsive education system grounded in the belief that all culturally and linguistically diverse students can excel in school when their culture language heritage and experiences are valued and used to facilitate their learning and development and they are provided access to high quality teachers programs and resources differentiated instruction speaks directly to these issues because it recognizes and expects that students are different and teaching needs to be adjusted to these differences advocates of differentiated instruction believe that whatever the issue or problem a student might face with the right teaching approach the student can and will learn in fact student differences are studied as a basis for planning tomlinson notes that schools sometimes deal with differences inside the classroom by sending some youngsters often the so-called troublemakers and learning disabled out of the regular classroom for their education but our choice isn t between sending them down the hall or doing nothing we can differentiate in the regular classroom hess 1999 the principles of differentiated instruction there is no how to recipe for differentiation because teachers who value the individual can translate it into classroom practices in many ways however there are certain broad principles and characteristics involved in establishing a differentiated instruction classroom according to tomlinson 2000b assessment is ongoing and tightly linked to instruction teachers constantly gather information about how their students are doing at a given point in order to plan instruction the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in highincidence special education programs mental retardation learning disabilities and emotional disturbance has been a concern for more than three decades klingner artiles 2005 extensive research suggests many factors are at play in the disproportionate representation of minority students in special education including a teacher s lack of knowledge about culturally 2|page this brief was developed by the metropolitan center for urban education under contract with the new york state education department contract #007052 authorization for reproduction is hereby granted to the system of public and state-approved private schools institutions of higher education and programs funded by the office of vocational and educational services for individuals with disabilities vesid of the new york state education department.


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teachers ensure respectful activities for all students each student s work should be equally interesting appealing and focused on essential understandings and skills teachers and students should see all tasks as worthwhile and valuable flexible grouping is a hallmark of the class teachers design instruction to allow all students to work with a variety of peers over a period of days sometimes students work with peers on the same level of readiness and sometimes with different levels of readiness sometimes they work with peers with similar interests sometimes with peers with different interests at other times the students work with peers who learn as they do sometimes randomly and often with the class as a whole teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness interest or learning profile 1 content ­ what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information 2 process ­ activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content 3 products ­ projects that ask the student to demonstrate what he or she has learned in a unit and 4 learning environment ­ the way the classroom works and feels to clarify what differentiated instruction is it is necessary to note a couple of things it specifically it is not 1 when assignments are the same for all learners but the level of difficulty of assignments is varied for certain students than others and students who finish early play games for enrichment ­ the class is not differentiated tomlinson 1995 2 differentiated instruction has nothing to do with dumbing down or watering down instruction or the standards to make it easier for some students 3 differentiated instruction also is not individualized instruction which proposes to design materials and tasks for the particular needs of each student differentiated instruction suggests teachers look at zones in which students cluster so they can offer three or four routes to a goal on a given day bafile 2004 aligning differentiated instruction with culturally responsive pedagogy during the 2002-03 school year 4 million 8 of all students in public schools received ell services nces 2005 nearly 42 41.7 of all children in public schools grades k-12 are students of color nces,2005 while this student diversity has been present for more than two decades within the past ten years there has not been a significant change in the makeup of our nation s teachers paley 2000 kunjunfu 2002 most elementary and secondary school teachers are white 87 and female 74 aacte 1999 schools of education are turning out a significant number of white female teachers which leads researchers to believe that white teachers in public schools have increased to nearly 90 while african american teachers comprise as little as 7 of the nation s teaching force snyder 1999 although the teaching force has dramatically changed in our public schools the curriculum and approach to teaching its diverse students has not education research shows that children learn best when their culture and language are reflected in the school s curriculum ladson-billings 1997 tatum 2003 gay 2000 franklin et al 2001 howard 1999 in today s schools students of color are taught a test-driven eurocentric curriculum that does not connect with their historical and sociocultural experiences our culture shapes our values attitudes beliefs and behavior it is an intrinsic part of who we are and how we identify ourselves our culture also molds our experiences and how we interpret those defining moments in our lives classroom teachers school administrators and policymakers carry their cultural experiences 3|page


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and perspectives into their everyday decisions and actions ­ educational and personal ­ and so do students from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds gay 2000 many students of color have an understanding of and some have internalized negative images of their race gay 2000 these negative images promoted by the larger society affect how they perform in school noguera 2003 schools are uniquely positioned to help students interpret and interrupt this imagery through interactions with curriculum and teachers that validate their culture tatum 2003 described an oppositional identity development in which black students are forced to choose between affirming their culture and academic success when their culture is not present black students may feel that academic success is not part of being black in contrast students who see their culture represented in the curriculum are more likely to have a higher self-concept and when students feel good about themselves they are more likely to be open with others and to learning gay 2000 a culturally responsive pedagogy allows for the discussion of difficult topics ­ like racism discrimination and prejudice ­ and offers students of all ages the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion that enhances learning because a culturally responsive pedagogy acknowledges the presence of racism that creates distorted and negative images of the cultures histories and possibilities of people of color beaubeouflafontant 1999 culturally responsive classrooms can create a space where harmful images can be deconstructed and positive self and cultural affirmations portrayed the principles of differentiated instruction lend itself to the culturally responsive pedagogical approach because it creates opportunity for a myriad of investigations into one lesson or topic at the same time with differentiated instruction students of color can explore a topic through a teaching approach that best meets their learning style while examining the values beliefs and ideas that shape their experiences getting started the seven building blocks of differentiated instruction forsten grant and hollas in progress have identified the building blocks of successful differentiated instruction these elements address the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students because they reflect an approach to teaching and learning that requires teachers to do things differently for different children the researchers suggest these building blocks and invite teachers to add elements to each 1 knowing the learner teachers need to know as much as possible about their students to teach them well including learning styles and pace multiple intelligences personal qualities such as personality temperament and motivation personal interests potential disabilities health family circumstances and language preference 2 traits of a quality teacher the teacher believes all students can learn has the desire and capacity to differentiate curriculum and instruction understands diversity and thinks about students developmentally is a risk taker is open to change and well-versed in best practices is comfortable challenging the status quo knows what doesn t work is able to withstand staff dissension that may arise 3 quality curriculum curriculum needs to be interesting to students and relevant to their lives appropriately challenging and complex thought provoking focused on concepts and principles and not just facts focused on quality not quantity stress depth of learning not just coverage 4 classroom learning environment the ideal learning environment includes a balanced student population appropriate grade and program placement priority seating based on student needs has a reasonable class size practices positive discipline arranges furniture to promote group work uses flexible grouping and has adequate teaching supplies 4|page


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5 flexible teaching and learning time resources includes team teaching block scheduling tutoring and remediation within school before and after-school programs homework clubs multiage/looping classrooms 6 instructional delivery and best practices includes flexible grouping cooperative learning learning stations and centers web quests tiered assignments individual contracts literature circles 7 assessment evaluation and grading includes portfolios observations skills checklists oral and written reports demonstrations performances work samples models taped responses drawings graphs and posters quizzes and tests and standardized tests when teachers teach students the same thing in the same way usually the result is that some students get it and some don t to gain a better understanding of what differentiated instruction is it is helpful to compare traditional and differentiated classrooms the chart below highlights some differences tomlinson 1999a examine the approaches between the typical traditional classroom and a differentiated classroom table 1 comparison of traditional and differentiated classrooms traditional classroom student differences masked or acted upon when problematic assessment is most common at the end of learning to see who got it a relatively narrow sense of intelligence prevails a single definition of excellence prevails student interests infrequently tapped relatively few learning profile options are taken into account whole class instruction dominates coverage of texts and curriculum guides drives instruction mastery of facts and skills out of context are the focus of learning single option assignments are the norm time is relatively inflexible a single text prevails single interpretation of ideas and events may be sought the teacher solves problems the teacher provides whole-class standards for grading a single form of assessment is often used differentiated classroom student differences are studied as a basis for planning assessment is ongoing and diagnostic to understand how to make instruction more responsive to learner need focus on multiple forms of intelligence is evident excellence is defined in large measure by individual growth from a starting point students are frequently guided in making interest-based learning choices many learning profile options are honored many instructional arrangements are used student readiness interest and learning profile shape instruction use of essential skills to make sense of and understand key concepts and principles is the focus of learning multi-option assignment are frequently used time is used flexibly in accordance with student need multiple materials are provided multiple perspectives on ideas and events are routinely sought students help other students and the teacher solve problems students work with the teacher to establish both whole-class and individual goals students are assessed in multiple ways 5|page


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summary however you start differentiation takes effort time and is a career long pursuit successful differentiated instruction teachers should give themselves three or more years to really feel savvy with it wormeli 2003 once you have started the effort there are some important elements to keep it going sustained staff development is critical you don t learn to differentiate instruction in a one-afternoon workshop district and school leadership are key to making implementation work their attitudes and the amount of support they provide are critical willis and mann 2000 small classes are ideal settings but it can be done in large classes too block scheduling allows a workshop environment that can contribute to the success of differentiated instruction because some differentiated activities take two to three weeks hess 1999 resources sample lessons the web has many sites that contain sample differentiated instruction lessons in various subjects and grade levels several sites are included in the resource list here are a few lessons new york state and charleston county south carolina school district recommends to help teachers get started example differentiated science and history lesson plans http htm example differentiated math lesson grades 6-8 http alternative ideas for book reporting in the primary grades k-3 http literature the cay grades 5-6 http social studies presidents 4 http helpful resources enhancing your instruction through differentiation ­ a professional development module developed by the access center complete with powerpoint presentation facilitator s guide handouts and lists of resources http _resources/differentiationmodule.asp glossary of differentiation of instruction terms ­ defines important terms http odstock-esaim/contentsgazettes.htm staff development for educators ­ timely information on differentiated instruction seminars workshops conferences videos and other resources ascd differentiated instruction resources ­ site features books audios videos on-line courses information about on-site training conferences and workshops http uitem.3adeebc6736780dddeb3ffdb621 08a0c internet4classrooms ­ information on instructional theory behind differentiated 6|page


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instruction classroom tips sample units and lessons and links to other sites http m delving into differentiation in middle school ­ articles books websites journals compiled by students at the university of maine at farmington http ferentiation/resources.htm teachers ­ articles on adjusting teaching styles to students learning styles accepts your questions about differentiated instruction via email http ust/index.htm differentiated instruction background and general information ­ information about learning styles multiple intelligences teaching strategies lesson plans authentic assessment on-line tutorials you can start with and on-line quiz to determine your own learning style http /differentiated_instruction.htm reading rockets ­ differentiating instruction to teach reading http 64 differentiated instruction and implications for ud implementation iffinstructudl.html differentiated instruction consultants profiles on more than a dozen experts in the field many with sample video clips http bytopic.html#differentiated%20instruct ion videos the association for supervision and curriculum development ascd has an extensive list of videos on differentiated instruction available for purchase http enuitem.3adeebc6736780dddeb3ffdb6 2108a0c videos differentiating instruction using technology ­ how technology can support differentiating efforts in the classroom includes information about assessment sample lessons examples of technology projects http fferentiation.htm 7|page


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references american association of colleges of teacher education 1999 teacher education pipeline iv schools colleges and department of education washington d.c aaacte the access center a national technical assistance center funded by the u.s department of education s office of special education programs osep washington dc bafile c 2004 different strokes for little folks carol ann tomlinson on differentiated instruction education world retrieved january 24 2006 from http beauboeuf-lafontant t 1999 a movement against and beyond boundaries politically relevant teaching among african american teachers teachers college record 1004 summer 702-23 forsten grant hollas in progress the 7 building blocks of differentiated instruction retrieved january 25 2006 from http franklin v.p hale j w allen 2001 learning while black baltimore the johns hopkins university press gay g 2000 culturally responsive teaching theory research and practice multicultural education series j.a banks ed new york teachers college press hall t 2002 differentiated instruction wakefield ma national center on accessing the general curriculum retrieved january 24 2006 from http hess m 1999 teaching in mixed-ability classrooms retrieved january 24 2006 from http howard g 1999 we can t teach what we don t know new york teachers college press klingner j.k artiles a.j kozleski e harry b zion s tate w duran g.z riley d 2005 addressing the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education through culturally responsive educational systems education policy analysis archives 13 38 retrieved february 3 2006 from http kunjufu j 2002 black students middle class teachers african american images il ladson-billings g 1997 the dreamkeepers successful teachers of african american children san francisco jossey-bass noguera p 2003 city schools and the american dream new york teachers college press paley v 2000 white teacher cambridge harvard university press 8|page


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rose d meyer a 2002 teaching every stud3nt in the digital age universal design for learning alexandria va ascd sleeter c 2001 preparing teachers for culturally diverse students journal of teacher education 522 94-106 snyder t 1999 digest of education statistics 1998 washington dc national center for education statistics u.s department of education st mary s college of maryland educational studies website http tatum b 2003 why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria a psychologist explains the development of racial identity new york basic books tomlinson c.a 1995 differentiating instruction for advanced learners in the mixedability school classroom eric digest #e536 october 1995 retrieved january 25 2006 from http tomlinson c.a 1999a the differentiated classroom responding to the needs of all learners alexandria va association for supervision and curriculum development tomlinson c.a 1999b mapping a route toward differentiated instruction educational leadership association for supervision and curriculum development alexandria va tomlinson c.a 2000a what makes differentiated instruction successful retrieved january 24 2006 from http tomlinson c.a 2000b differentiation of instruction in the elementary grades retrieved january 26 2006 from http tukey l 2002 differentiated instruction and a game of golf phi delta kappan september 92 63-64 u.s department of education national center for education statistics 2005 public elementary and secondary students staff schools and school districts school year 2002-03 nces 2005­314 villegas a.m lucas t 2002 preparing culturally responsive teachers rethinking the curriculum journal of teacher education 531 20-32 willis s and mann l winter 2000 differentiating instruction finding manageable ways to meet individual needs curriculum winter 2000 retrieved january 24 2006 from http wormeli r 2003 differentiating instruction a modified concerto in four movements retrieved january 24 2006 from http 9|page



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