P2 – Practice differentiated instruction. This means that teachers use a variety of instructional strategies or personalized instruction to help students acquire knowledge. Teachers will create opportunities for students to learn the same standards in different forms or with small modifications to fit the students’ needs.
The evidence is a series of mini-lessons presented over three days of instruction as outlined by a previous blog post found here. (LINK TO OTHER POST CLICK HERE) This post also includes some background information about the project, goals and outcomes. These lessons used student activities to help students to learn about and become familiar with vertical asymptotes, horizontal asymptotes, x- and y-intercepts and holes in a graph. Rather than providing students with direct instruction, the activities are built to facilitate student discussion around the topics and the teacher can target students with special learning needs during the activity. Each group was strategically selected to include students who brought different strengths (such as good communicator, critical thinkers in a single group). Group roles were assigned to draw out strengths or compensate for weaknesses of individual groups (quiet students were assigned as readers, critical thinkers assigned to questioner role).
Lessons 1 through 4 use student’s prior knowledge of polynomial functions to build on new understandings. Stations which revolved around asymptotes had students use limits by completing a table of values. For horizontal asymptotes, the values approached infinity and negative infinity. For Vertical asymptotes, the values approached a fixed value of x. Structuring groups with specific roles, students were able to converse and think critically about each of the four topics. Since the conversations were NOT teacher lead, students could explain to each other concepts they were unsure of. Most importantly, I would circulate the room during the activity to check on students progress and assess needs or misunderstandings with groups of about 4 students. I would target groups that were working fast to ensure they understood the intricacies of the activity and would provide challenge or extending information to groups who were able to build on more complex ideas.
After completing this activity, I learned that station learning can be valuable but should be thought through carefully. I would reconsider several processes to make this better.
- Allow more time for students to complete the activities. Some groups seemed rushed and were not able to complete ideas.
- Debrief with groups after each activity to ensure students understood the purpose of each question.
- Provide a little bit of direct instruction before turning to station learning activity to motivate the learning more.
- Remove the unit about holes since it is not a standard, but a good to know topic.
- I would remove the idea of making the students physically move around the room during the activity, this wasted time.
There are some pieces of learning that I thought were beneficial to the activity.
- Assigning students to groups to ensure there are a variety of learners in each group of learning.
- Assigning group roles to draw out strengths of students to benefit others in the group.
- Circulating the room to provide direct instruction as needed rather than lecturing at the front of the room. The dynamic of a teacher roaming helps students by providing small group instruction AND if the teacher is unavailable, groups must work together to problem solve before asking for assistance and receiving help. The delayed gratification is more effective because students are more receptive to the learning (Meyer, 2010).
While many of the suggestions above would help students learn and are keys to improving the instruction better for next time, I can continue to improve by learning and practicing differentiated instruction and providing alternate means of learning to students when station activities are not being used, such as times when direct instruction is used more. There is more research and practice that can be learned.
References: Meyer, D. (Speaker) (2010, March 1). Math class needs a makeover. TEDxNYED. Lecture conducted from TED Conferences, LLC, New York City.