We have all been to workshops and conferences where the speaker gives a glorious, revival-style presentation on differentiated instruction. We sit there thinking, “Wow, this is fantastic!” Then, we imagine how in the world we were going to differentiate for 25 – 30 students, six times a day, and we say, “Wow, this is a fantasy!”
My classmates in UNE’s Differentiation Theory and Strategies course said the same thing at first. “Overwhelming,” was the most frequent response. I have only 30 students in my special education classes, but the whole idea of differentiated instruction seemed like a major life change–more daunting than dieting and exercise.
Two weeks into the course, we saw the light. While reading the introduction to Differentiated Assessment Strategies: One Tool Doesn’t Fit All (Chapman and King, 2005), we discovered that it’s O.K., even encouraged, to “Begin on a limited basis and expand your use of the tools as you grow more comfortable.” Do one unit or one class only, the authors advise. That seems obvious now, but after a good three or four days total of my life have been spent in professional development, this is the first I’d heard of taking it easy.
One step at a time? My colleagues and I assumed that differentiated instruction was all or nothing. The only ones who did differentiate at my school were the type-A, super-teachers, the ones who are so highly organized they can see the tops of their desks at all times. This is not me. I forget what color my desk is painted. But, one step at a time, maybe I can do this–one differentiated instructional day at a time.