Judith Byers, Instructor
6731 Assessment Student Learning
Dec 16, 2012
The corner stone of a real, constructive teaching improvement lies in the enduring search for authentic knowledge by experts who guide us, as teachers, efficiently to the most updated and effective approaches for making students achieve at their best potentials in order to become good individuals in society. Foremost among them are Jay McTighe, co-author of Understanding by Design and Carol Ann Tomlinson, nationally renowned expert on Differentiated Instruction. Both professors are innovative enough to present invaluable theories with many effective strategies that ensure a quality teaching process for teachers and a high standard knowledge acquisition and skill improvement for learners. For understanding more about Jay McTighe's Understanding by Design and Carol Tomlinson's Differentiated Instruction, I managed to interview both professors about their instructional and curricular approaches, Firstly, I started talking with Dr. Tomlinson as follows: Me: Professor Tomlinson, you are known as the guru of differentiation with more than 700 presentations in various schools and 17 books on the topics of differentiated instruction and curriculum. With appreciating the impact of DI on each student in the classroom, I would like to ask: What is the strongest argument for differentiation? Tomlinson: Well, the strongest argument for differentiation to me is looking at the kids sitting in the classroom. It is rare to go into a classroom where kids are identical in all cultural, linguistic, and social background. Realizing how teachers suffer from varied student responses to teaching practices that signals a need for instruction that addresses individual variance; as well as needs common content requirements. We are required to have deal appropriately with so many students who bring to school with them needs and differences. Me: What is the secret to managing differentiation in the classroom? Tomlinson: The secret lies in the differentiation philosophy that students become stronger learners when they can accept more responsibility for their own learning and when they become more proficient in understanding their goals, their status relative to those goals, and how to adjust their approach to learning in order to achieve the goals. Me: What advice do you have for teachers who are just starting out with differentiation? Tomlinson: Become a kid watcher. Do your best to study the learners in any moment and in any way you can. Learn to see them as individuals rather than a group. Ask them and take feedback on how the class is working for them and how to make it work better. Then, strive to respond to what you see and know. Each step you take will teach you if you want to learn. Remember to apply regular pre-assessment of student competencies and begin to think about teaching with student needs in mind.
Now, I do have the honor to ask Dr. McTighe about the UbD approach: Me: First of all, what are the main ideas of UbD and how many stages are there for it? McTighe: The Understanding by Design framework offers a plan-ning process and structure to guide curriculum, assessment, and instruction. Its two key ideas are contained in the title: 1) focus on teaching and assessing for understanding and learning transfer, and 2) design curriculum “backward” from those ends. It is comprised of three stages: 1) Identify desired results; 2) Determine acceptable evidence; and 3) Plan learning experiences and instruction. Me: Is Understanding by Design appropriate for all grades and subjects? McTighe: Yes, on one condition. The unit goals should involve some big ideas worth understanding as opposed to those requiring only drill and recall. Me: What should UbD further include?
McTighe: It should include core assessment tasks along with scoring rubrics that all students would perform to...
References: Hall, T. (2002). Differentiated instruction. Effective classroom practices report. National
Center on Accessing the General Curriculum, CAST, U.S
McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate in mixed-ability classrooms. 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA.
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