By Maryke Bellingan
What thought or association comes to mind when you hear the word differentiation? In my head I immediately see the English word “different” and that’s exactly what it refers to – every child is unique with his own character, God-given talents, personal interests, way of learning and challenges. As parents, we have a natural desire to see our children thrive. We want them to emerge victorious and walk into the world with pride and self-confidence.
However, the challenge comes when our children are placed in an environment where they are one of many, such as in a school class. In these circumstances, where teachers work with dozens of children at once, it can be challenging to ensure that each child’s unique needs and potential are recognized and addressed.
This does not mean that teachers do not care, or do not try their best to meet each child’s needs. On the contrary, many teachers are deeply committed to their pupils and strive to exploit each one’s potential. However, with limited time and resources, this can be a tough task.
We are often under the false impression that fairness means every learner should get exactly the same mind, aptitude, attention, education, or time. According to such reasoning, this would mean that if two learners fell – one injured his knee and the other his elbow – the teacher would put a plaster on both of their left fingers.
Differentiation is a teaching strategy in which the teacher adapts the learning content, process and environment according to the specific needs of each learner in the classroom. Instead of guiding all learners through the exact same learning experience, each child’s individual learning style, abilities and interests are taken into account. The purpose of differentiation is not only to provide for learners with learning challenges, but also for those who require additional enrichment. All the subjects are covered with all the learners, but teaching takes place in different ways.
How can it help your child?
Differentiation guarantees that the learning material is adapted in a way that makes sense for your child. This may mean that there is a greater emphasis on visual aids for a child who is visually oriented, or that practical activities are included for those who learn kinesthetically. This may also include that problems or challenges encountered in a previous degree are first addressed before moving forward.
When children are in an environment where their unique needs are recognized and dealt with, they feel more motivated and have greater confidence in their ability to learn. Differentiation promotes active participation. By taking your child’s learning style into account, it increases the likelihood that he or she will become more deeply involved in the learning process.
What can you do as a parent?
Ensure an open communication channel with your child’s teacher. Discuss your child’s strengths, challenges and learning styles, and ask how differentiation can be implemented in the classroom.
You can also implement differentiation at home by tailoring your child’s learning experience until it is completely unique to him or her. For example, if your child has a passion for science, you can carry out experiments at home or read relevant books and watch videos together.
Teach your child to identify his or her own learning styles and preferences. This will empower them to independently formulate strategies that optimize their learning process.
It is important to realize that your child’s book may not look exactly like that of the other children. Your child is unique, and the teacher recognized this – be grateful for that. A good relationship and trust in your child’s abilities guarantee the most effective teaching approach.
Differentiation in the classroom can help your child’s unique qualities shine through and help him or her perform to the best of their ability. Work with your child’s teachers to unlock your child’s maximum potential.
- Maryke Bellingan is an education specialist from the Solidarity School Support Center (SOS). The article is posted courtesy of the SOS.