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Reflective Journal

Differentiated Instruction

One of the most important aspects of teaching and learning that I now understand is that

the one-size-fits-all curriculum cannot lead to effective learning and understanding by all

students in a classroom. My usual method of teaching is the chalk and talk approach, with

occasional diversity through the use of videos and some in-class role play. For my Form 4

Integrated Science class, however, I observed that students tend to get bored during class

sessions when reading, teacher-centered discussions, and note-taking are involved. Students also

tend to have difficulty remembering the information presented to them in such classes. In an

attempt to address this situation, I decided to find out from the students themselves how my

teaching methods can be changed to (i) enhance their comprehension of lesson content and

learning outcomes, as well as to (ii) generate interest in the lesson delivery process.

Learning styles and multiple intelligences questionnaires, together with students

reflective essays on conventional teaching strategies, all revealed that the majority of the students

in this Form 4 class do not in fact learn well through reading or teacher-centered discussions.

Instead, 94% of the class learns best using visual and kinesthetic aids, while only 6 % of students

grasp and comprehend information easily from reading and listening to discussions. This

realization was significant as it demonstrated that conventional teaching strategies were not

creating the best learning environment for all students. While conventional strategies were easy

for the teacher to execute, it was in fact disadvantageous to students. This reinforced that one

teaching method does not fulfill the learning requirements of all students; and teachers need to
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vary teaching strategies through differentiated instruction to meet the needs of the diverse

learners in the classroom.

Subban (2006) cites Tomlinson (2000a, 2001a, 2003), McBride (2004), Lawrence-Brown

(2004), and Tuttle (2000) when he states that Differentiated instruction presents an effective

means to address learner variance, avoids the pitfalls of the one-size-fits-all curriculum, while

supporting the multiple intelligences and varying learning styles. Differentiated instruction

provides multiple approaches to content, is student-centered, and therefore attempts to meet the

needs of all learners (Tomlinson, 2001). The literature reinforces the preferences of the students;

as well as their attitude towards the conventional one-size-fits-all curriculum.

Having realized that not all students learn in the same manner, it prompted me to attempt

to differentiate my teaching strategies within a class session to meet the needs of the diverse

learners. The class session involved the use of whole-class, group, and individual activities; and

during the differentiated lesson, it was quite obvious that students were more energetic, and were

excited to participate in varying activities. They were also more enthusiastic to participate in

classroom discussions as they were eager to relate the information they learnt from the respective

activities that appealed to them. Overall, the students responded positively to the differentiated

instruction lesson and demonstrated improved learning outcomes. In addition, this strategy

improved communication between the teacher and the students. This served to make students

more comfortable and willing to answer questions and discuss ideas.

This understanding of the impact of differentiated instruction reinforced the need to

understand the preferred learning styles and multiple intelligences of students, in order to tailor

or differentiate teaching strategies to meet their learning needs. Differentiated instruction is


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therefore an important tool to ensuring that all students benefit in the classroom, and that no

student is left behind in the learning process. It also stimulates their intellectual capacities as they

can identify with the learner-specific activities, and thus explore concepts and principles at a

deeper level.

This insight into the effectiveness of differentiated instruction in meeting the needs of

diverse learners will definitely inform my teaching practices for future class sessions. It has

motivated me to want to determine the learning styles and multiple intelligences of students in all

classes I am teaching. In doing so, I will be able to differentiate my teaching strategies to benefit

all students in my classes; and not only improve their learning outcomes, but also motivate them

to want to learn and find greater enjoyment in the subject. I also anticipate that communication

and interaction amongst students, and between myself and the students, will improve; thus

creating a comfortable learning environment. This is a strategy I will definitely keep. In addition,

I also intend to inform other teachers of the effectiveness of differentiated instruction in meeting

the needs to diverse learners and encourage them to use this strategy in their teaching practices as

well.

Bibliography

Subban, P. (2006). Differentiated Instruction: A research basis. International Education Journal,

7(7), 935-947.

Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to Differentiate in Mixed-Ability Classrooms 2 nd Edition.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


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It is interesting that differentiation held just as well for students who are high functioning

academics as it did for students with obviously more variation in their learning styles. What did

students do that showed a more positive response and enjoyment? Was this just for one lesson or

multiple lessons?