ATT: Differentiation

Jul 12 / Ibtrove
In the IB, the approaches to teaching (ATT) skills are linked to our pedagogy which goes beyond what and how we teach and encompasses how we support, develop and interact with our students -- it is a teaching style. To ensure we are the best educators we can be, we need to identify our own strengths and areas for development and participate in continuous professional learning. Reflecting on our own practice, collaborating with peers from the wider IB community and communicating how and that we are learning is all part of this learning journey.

One of these ATTs is differentiated to allow each individual student to achieve their potential. Differentiated instruction is about actively planning for student differences and learning style. This includes: getting to know our students academically and personally so we can have realistic expectations of them and provide suitable scaffolds, a variety of pathways and extension activities throughout their learning experiences.
The IB categorizes differentiation into four areas which are related to building self-esteem, valuing prior knowledge, scaffolding, and extending learning but these are all aimed at promoting equal access for all students.

What is differentiation?

Many times in faculty meetings, non-IB teachers would complain to me and say I was so lucky to teach IB because I must not have to worry about any behavior issues and definitely not any neurodiverse students. But this is not true. All people learn in different ways and it's our job as teachers (and IB teachers) to support all our students so they can reach their highest potential.

At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction. (readingrockets.org)

Ways to differentiate your IB content

Here are a few ways you can differentiate your content to improve student learning:

  • Access prior and current data to determine each individual student’s strengths.
  • Use this knowledge to create appropriate scaffolds, pathways and extension activities.
  • Create choice for students.
  • Ensure each student has a realistic but aspirational target grade which is reviewed each term.
  • Communicate and collaborate with parents/carers.
  • Make links to prior knowledge.

Subject-specific example

Group 3: Individuals and Societies
For larger projects, I give students options for how they would like to present their learning: an oral presentation in front of the class, a collaborative research paper with their group, or a recorded/digital presentation for their class to view.

Group 6: The Arts
Through employing a range of delivery options, and always using at least 2 formats to deliver information –including verbal, visual, hard and soft copy, I ensure understanding is available to all students. In modes of presentation, most assignments have a variety of options students can select to show me their level of understanding. In performance I aim to allow for student choice in roles or texts to encourage them a choice that suits their ability and preference, and a range of areas to explore such as cast or crew. 
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